Emergencies are terrifying, but thankfully, paramedics are trained to come to the rescue. Needless to say, being a paramedic is a heroic job. However, paramedics often experience people at their worst. From fake injuries to downright detrimental scenes, these paramedics share their insane and unbelievable calls. Content has been edited for clarity.
Big Toe Troubles
“I received a multitude of strange calls working for emergency medical services.
One day, my team received a ‘technician rescue,’ call for a female patient. There wasn’t any other information available. My partner and I arrived at the woman’s address with lights and sirens on our vehicle. We knocked on the apartment door and didn’t get an answer after several attempts.
We notified the dispatcher of our findings, and the dispatcher made a call to the patient. The patient claimed they were unable to answer the door, as they were stuck in the bathroom. Mind you, they weren’t using the bathroom, they were literally stuck in the bathroom. We needed to ask for a master key to open her apartment door.
My partner and I were perplexed, but we woke the landlord up and acquired a key to her apartment.
After getting into the apartment, we knocked on the bathroom door and announced, ‘EMS here!’
After being invited in, we encountered a woman sitting in the bathtub. We inquired about the nature of her ‘medical emergency,’ and she informed us that her big toe was stuck in her tub drain and she couldn’t get it out.
After my partner and I digested this information, I looked at her and said, ‘Ma’am, we can’t remove your toe from the drain. It doesn’t constitute a medical emergency. Also, you need to call the fire department or the police department. They have the resources and tools to help you.’
My partner and I promptly left afterward.
Another time, my partner and I received an ‘elderly cardiac’ call. When we arrived at the scene, a frail and elderly woman answered the door.
She explained, ‘I need your help. My grandparents aren’t waking up. They went out for a walk earlier, came home, took a nap, and now I can’t wake them up.’
The woman led us into a very dimly lit room.
I whispered to my rookie partner, ‘Watch where you step. You might step in the dust of grandma and grandpa.’
Using our flashlights, we scanned the floor and the room. We didn’t see anyone!
We politely asked the woman, ‘Can you please show us where your grandparents are?’
The woman smiled and walked over to a nightstand with a lamp on it.
She explained, ‘This lamp is my grandmother, and the lamp on the other nightstand is my grandfather.’
I told my partner, ‘Take blood pressure on the patients.’
He caught on to what was happening and pretended to take the vital signs of both lamps. We asked her for information about her ‘grandparent’s’ emergency contacts, as well as information about their doctor.
We informed the woman, ‘Your grandparents are fine, they are just tired from their walk.’
Once we left the residence, we notified a hotline of her mental state, and we made a call to her son to tell him.
I felt bad for the woman. You can’t make these kinds of situations up. Not when you are working for EMS.”
“This Job Is Bizarre”
“One time, I got a call from a middle-aged woman who lived in a private group home.
She called the emergency hotline and said, ‘They put urine in my scalloped potatoes! I wanted to eat different potatoes, but they told me I couldn’t! And I had a goldfish in the post on the window, but he is gone now. I’m a little shaky, but it’s okay, it is just air turbulence.’
Essentially, nothing she was telling me was making sense. I tried to get her to tell me if she had a medical problem, and I was hitting my head against the wall.
Another time, I received a call about a man who had taken a substance and was then taken to the hospital. The man was admitted, and he was put under a seventy-two-hour psychological hold until he was medically cleared. He had a ‘monitor,’ which is usually a volunteer whose job it was to make sure he didn’t go anywhere.
Apparently, the person watching the patient wasn’t doing their job. The man took out his IV, unhooked the cardiac monitor from the machine, unraveled his blood pressure cuff, and took off his hospital gown. He escaped the hospital, jumped a few fences, and took off down a busy street.
A sixteen-year-old driver was in the center turn lane on the street and was waiting to turn into the McDonald’s to work. The patient climbed on the hood of the kid’s car! Of course, the police were already patrolling in the area searching for the man. They found him very easily when the kid called emergency services. This happened in Florida, and it was April. Usually in Florida, we experienced hot, humid, weather. However, at this time we were experiencing a cold spell. On this day, it was around fifty degrees and rainy.
I hadn’t brought my utility jacket on this day. The cops had given the guy a blanket, and everyone was arguing over how to get him on the stretcher.
I was freezing and told the guy very loudly, ‘Dude, it’s freezing. I’m cold. I know you have to be, too. The heat is on in my truck. Get on the stretcher and let’s get inside.’
Calm as can be, he stands up and says, ‘Okay,’ and sits on the stretcher.
All the other paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and cops on the scene are staring at me. I told them they could either stay outside where it was cold or sit in the car, but I was going to go warm up.
We also had to clear the young driver, because he was freaking out.
He cried, ‘I didn’t know what to do! They didn’t teach me what to do in driver’s ed.’
I asked him what he did, and he replied, ‘I locked my doors and called 911.’
I replied, ‘You did everything correctly and in the right order. Nobody teaches us what to do in these kinds of situations.’
Needless to say, this job is bizarre.”
“I Knew She Was Faking”
“I had a strange call a couple of weeks ago. Granted, my team and I got a lot of calls for minor or silly things before this situation. Some of the silly calls don’t exactly qualify as an emergency, but that’s a conversation for a different day. For now, this situation is my front runner for the strangest call I have received. Of course, until another one comes up and bumps it along.
I received a call to an address my team and I have been to multiple times before. One resident in the home was a fifty-eight-year-old woman who was going through multiple different illnesses. Another resident was her twenty-something-year-old daughter and her two children. I have been to the house over thirty times, and I have never seen a man in the house.
They called claiming there was a traumatic injury, so we considered it a ‘code two,’ which meant we wouldn’t use lights or sirens on our ambulance. Something already tipped me off about the call being totally fake, as traumatic injuries are almost always ‘code three’ responses. My second hint the call was a scam was recognizing the address I have been to multiple times before.
We pulled up to the home, unloaded the gurney, and knocked on the door. When the door opened, we found the patient sitting on the couch.
I asked them, ‘Who are we here for? What is going on?’
The woman responded, ‘Well, I was walking by the table, and my son’s plastic toy fell onto my toe. It really hurts.’
Mind you, the table was maybe two feet off of the ground. I looked at the ‘injured’ toe and didn’t see bruising swelling, or any obvious deformities. I decided to jump through all of the hoops anyways.
I asked, ‘Can you move your toe? Do you feel me touching it?’ and everything else.
There wasn’t even any redness! I knew she was faking, but I offered to take the woman to the hospital anyway.
Without missing a beat, the woman replied, ‘Yes! I need to go to the hospital. I need to get my toe checked out.’
We loaded the woman into the ambulance, and she acted as if she could barely walk. The drama of it all! She opened up the ambulance door, took a few steps, and sat back down. All without issue or complaining.
While transporting her in the ambulance, I did my paperwork and she was happily texting on her phone. Midway through the trip, part of my required line of questioning is asking her what kind of pain she is feeling. Zero being no pain, ten being the worst pain of your life.
Without bothering to look up from her phone or before I even finish asking, she said, ‘My pain is like a nine.’
Needless to say, she went straight to the back of the line in the emergency waiting room. From what I heard later, she called a cab and walked out perfectly fine on her own.”
“The Situation Left Me Absolutely Speechless”
“One night at three thirty in the morning, my pager went off for an unknown problem. While responding, the dispatcher had us call her on a separate channel, other than the regular channel.
My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh. This isn’t going to be good.’
I thought the patient had a serious and very personal issue, and the dispatcher didn’t want it aired over the entire county. As she answered the phone, she could hardly speak as she was laughing so hard.
In between giggles, she explained, ‘I don’t know what is going on here. The patient is a fifty-seven-year-old male complaining of green feet.’
There was silence on both ends, both from the dispatcher and myself.
I finally asked, ‘Does he have any other symptoms or complaints?’
She answered, ‘No, the man said he is fine otherwise.’
A little time passes, and my team and I arrived on the scene. As we entered the residence, we were met by the man’s wife. She was half crying and visibly shaken at the situation. As we entered the residence, we encountered the man sitting on the sofa with his feet propped up on a coffee table.
We questioned him and asked, ‘Have you worn any new socks or shoes recently? Do you have any pain, numbness, or tingling? Have you changed laundry detergents?’
He answered all of our questions with a simple, ‘No.’
My team and I were at a loss for words. We loaded him onto the stretcher at his wife’s insistence and took him to the hospital. When I called the hospital to report the issue, I called them on a separate line. Again, I received silence from the person on the other line.
When we arrived at the hospital, the emergency staff welcomed us at the door with curious eyes and smiles. We put the man in a bed, and I gave the staff my report.
As I was giving my report, I heard the man tell his nurse, ‘You know, I did just buy a new pair of shoes, and I wore them without socks.’
I yelled, ‘Are you serious? We just asked if you wore new socks when you were at home!’
He looked down at his green feet embarrassed and admitted, ‘I’m sorry, I forgot.’
The situation left me absolutely speechless.”
“It Was A Horror Show”
“I went on a structure fire call around two in the morning. It was at one of the few houses in our response area I hadn’t been to, and it was an odd house. The family who owned it was big in the metal fabrication business. The house was on a hillside, on metal stilts, and the framing was all metal box beams. They weren’t cheap aluminum, the stilts looked like steel beams.
Anyway, the old woman who lived in the house had dementia, was in her mid-eighties, and was a hoarder. Her utilities had been shut off for months, if not years.
On entry to the front door, my team had to crawl through a canyon of old newspapers piled up to the ceiling on both sides. The house had shag carpets dating back to the seventies. We encountered wheelbarrows and buckets full of used batteries, as well as ammunition of all types. The kitchen was a horror show, as there were old dinner trays piled up to the ceiling, dishes everywhere, and dog food on the table. Her fridge was being used to store bedding supplied like sheets and blankets. There wasn’t one square inch of free space anywhere in the house, except for a very sad clear space on the bed where the woman slept.
Her dog, near as we could tell, was never walked outdoors. I had to get a medical checkup and a booster shot after being in her house because it was so dirty. My gear had to be destroyed by a medical waste company.
After my team put the fire out, there was a coagulated layer of dog feces, battery acid, urine, and rotten food left over on the floor. The smell and fumes were so bad we had to wear special oxygen masks and keep trading the tanks out. It took us a full day to overhaul the place, a job that would have normally taken two or three hours.
The house was so bad, that I called my chief afterward. I explained if we didn’t get a senior services representative to the woman’s house, I would quit my job and go public with the situation. I was livid this woman had been neglected by her wealthy family who lived a mere twenty minutes away. The district attorney came to the scene personally, and he was taken aback. He used his laptop on the hood of his car to file the paperwork for the legal case against the family of this poor lady.
I will never forget the call or what the woman’s house looked like for as long as I live.”
“We Couldn’t Legally Refuse Transport”
“My favorite call I ever received as a paramedic happened a couple of summers ago. It was a hot day, and a woman felt the need to perhaps test her fan’s performance by putting her finger through the protective housing. It was an older fan with metal blades, so it did manage to break her skin. Her husband believed it warranted a call to emergency services.
When I arrived at the scene, the husband explained his wife’s failed experiment with the fan. I examined her finger, which was wrapped in a paper towel. I was unimpressed by the cut, which I doubted even required a single stitch. I irrigated the injury and bandaged it as I would any other cut. However, the woman decided she needed to go to the hospital by ambulance anyway, despite there being no continued bleeding. Not to mention her husband was there, had a car, and was perfectly capable of taking her to the emergency room or urgent care. He could have even taken her to the pharmacy to get some Band-Aids, which wasn’t all too necessary, either.
My partner and I attempted to try to explain how ambulance transport isn’t cheap, and how transporting her wouldn’t be proper usage of life-saving resources. She refused to listen, and we couldn’t legally refuse someone requesting transport.
Soon, we were talking in circles, so I thought, ‘Whatever, we shouldn’t spend any more time telling these people how they are wasting our time and their money.’
I told the woman to get in the ambulance, and I buckled her onto a gurney. The cut was already treated, so there was nothing I needed to do in the back aside from a second set of vitals for documentation. Essentially, there was nothing to do on the ride to the emergency room.
Except for watching her husband follow us closely out of the back window. It only reinforced my team’s and I’s feelings of frustration. As soon as we arrived at the hospital, I rolled her right through the emergency room, out the exit, and into the waiting room. The woman could wait like everyone else to be serviced. Somebody else needed a hospital bed a lot more than she did.
I’m not even sure if the woman and her husband waited long enough to be seen by a doctor.”
“She Was Supposed To Be Qualified”
“One incident I will never forget is a call my team received about a fall at a nursing home.
The call was direct, and it wasn’t an emergency hotline dial. The nurse who called was known to be an ‘off’ person. When we arrived, a ninety-four-year-old woman was lying on the cold floor in her pajamas without a blanket or sheet.
The nurse looked at me and explained, ‘Well, I didn’t want to put her back on the bed in case she broke a bone.’
It was a valid point, but she could have at least given the woman a blanket! There were also ways two or three people could have safely gotten her back into bed if she did in fact have a broken bone.
The first thing my team and I did was scoop the woman up and lay her on a cot with blankets. The poor woman was shivering so much at this point, and she could hardly speak. She indeed had a broken hip.
We went to talk to the nurse again, and she nonchalantly said, ‘I can’t talk right now. There is someone else who needs my help down the hall.’
I looked down the hall and wouldn’t you know, there was an old man, completely purple, and clutching his throat. He wasn’t coughing, and he had a panicked look on his face. My partner sprinted over to the man, and I stayed with the woman on her cot to not abandon her.
My partner did the Heimlich on the man, and he choked up a piece of hot dog. All while this was happening, the nurse was attempting to set up oxygen for him. For those who don’t work in the medical field, oxygen isn’t helpful for someone choking because they aren’t actively moving air. It might have been helpful immediately after, but people tend to oxygenate fairly well once the obstruction is cleared.
I looked at my partner completely dumbfounded. The nurse was supposed to be more educated and qualified than us, and she was letting a woman freeze and a man choke!
The woman who broke her hip had it repaired, and she lived for another year while I worked for the ambulance service. However, the nurse got fired for stalking my boss and two employees from the nursing home. Something wasn’t right with her.”
The Head Lice Hangup
“I once got a call about head lice.
It was at two in the morning, and it was dispatched as, ‘head irritation due to head lice.’
My partner called the dispatcher on the phone and asked if she was serious.
The dispatcher laughed and replied, ‘You are exactly right. They need help with head lice.’
We asked if we had to respond to the call, and the dispatcher got a supervisor over. Then, the head of the department called my partner and me. Everyone confirmed my fear, we had to drive to this person’s house over a kid with head lice. Needless to say, there was no way the kid was getting in my ambulance. It would have taken hours to fumigate!
My partner and I arrived on the scene, and an unpleasant woman met us at the door.
The woman questioned, ‘Why did it take you so long to arrive?’
I calmly explained, ‘Head lice isn’t a medical emergency, ma’am. We needed to confirm if we were supposed to respond.’
She was not happy, and she demanded we take her precious child to the, ‘Best emergency room in the area.’
The woman became rather loud, and a police officer patrolling the area heard her from his vehicle. He came into the home, too.
I further explained to the woman, ‘If we take your child to the emergency room, insurance will not cover the ambulance ride. Not only this, but they likely wouldn’t cover the visit, either. The best thing for you to do is call your pediatrician for an opinion.’
She called her poor pediatrician and woke them up at two in the morning. Then, the woman started screaming at me like I was a complete fool.
I explained to the doctor, ‘Please yell at your patient, she is being ridiculous.’
The doctor proceeded to loudly yell at the woman over the phone. It was hilarious! Needless to say, there wasn’t transport for her child. Back to bed, they went!”
Drills And Drama Queens
“One day, my emergency medical technician trainer was called out into the woods at a campsite. The call was for a teenage girl who was talking to her family around the campfire when she suddenly became unresponsive.
He was feeling skeptical about the situation, but he conducted the usual measures to test levels of responsiveness. He didn’t hold back for the tests to see her reaction to painful stimuli. However, she was a stone and didn’t react whatsoever. He proceeded to call in life flight for the girl.
Life flight loaded her into the helicopter, and the flight nurse did a quick medical evaluation. She also sensed the girl was faking her medical emergency. The nurse missed putting the girl’s first IV in, and their policy was to do a bore IV on the second try.
She yelled at the girl, ‘I need access!’ and whirred her drill a few times before going for her shin.
The nurse didn’t quite get to drilling before the girl opened her eyes and began acting normally.
The girl confessed, ‘Please stop! I didn’t want to be camping with my family. I needed a way out!’
I cannot imagine the medical bills for the stunt this girl pulled. It was a huge waste of time and resources. She was the worst drama queen ever!”
The Car Catastrophe
“As a paramedic, I got insane calls quite often.
One late-night call I won’t ever forget was an ‘assist the sheriff’s office at a crime scene,’ call. My team and I were puzzled until we saw the scene. When we arrived, we were on a dirt road in an unincorporated residential section of town. Three sheriff’s deputies were on the scene, and they were standing next to a car that was still running.
A female subject was in handcuffs yelling repeatedly, ‘I told him! I swear I told him!’
I walked up to one of the deputies I was familiar with, and I asked what was going on.
She pointed to the undercarriage of the car and explained, ‘She was a jealous wife, and she suspected her husband was cheating. She ran him over. We need you to lift the car off of him.’
I got down on my side and looked under the car. Sure enough, there was a man under the car. Unfortunately, I could already tell he had passed away. Looking closer, I realized we were going to have to cut the catalytic converter off too, as he was completely stuck to the converter due to the heat.
By the time we got the car off of the man, the coroner’s van had arrived. They transported the victim with the converter stuck melted to his chest.”