Recently, Reddit user u/HighlightTime asked, "Doctors and nurses of reddit, what’s your 'he shouldn’t have survived' story?" Here are some of the wildest stories — as well as some stories from the survivors themselves.
1. "A 2-year-old run over by a UPS truck. Driver felt it, mother witnessed it. Child was admitted from ER to my floor for observation. Nothing, I mean nothing was wrong with this child."
2. "Guy came in with foot-long scalp laceration, several abdominal punctures and an eight-inch knife sticking halfway out of his sternum, still talking to EMTs during report. He was worked up, stapled up, discharged that night after they picked up his brother for doing it. No punctures to any organs, no card/pulm injuries, no intestinal perforation. Idk how. I sent him to the OR — I was able to even consent the guy which was surreal as I was on call trauma resident. An hour later, they said it was the right call but they just did conscious sedation and pulled it out with anesthesia and surgeons gowned and ready to intervene — and he was good for discharge as his police chaperone said it was safe."
3. "My Grandma Mary (Grammary) is a nurse. ... In the 1970s, she spent some time on St. Lawrence Island. There was a young man (possibly Yupik?) [who] was attacked by a polar bear while walking along one of the Northern banks. By the time Grammary and her assistant got to the scene, the man was almost completely white. His entire left arm was missing and the right arm was missing below the elbow. His legs were mostly intact, but they were covered in gashes. He had been eviscerated and most of his large intestines were hanging out on the snow next to him."
"She says that she honestly thought she was there to administer some morphine and call it. But he was incredibly lucid. He told her about the attack and where he'd last seen his left arm (on the edge of the shore where the bear had flung it). He even made a pass at Grammary. He said something like 'if you see my heart in there, it's yours' while she was trying to secure his organs enough to move him inside. After they stabilized him, they got him to Norton Sound (about 45 minutes away by seaplane) where a trauma team was able to meet them. The man came out of it with most of his organs and they were even able to sew his left arm back on."
4. "A lady attended ED with her throat slit. She was unfortunately a domestic abuse victim and a vile man had cut her throat with a very large, sharp, and jagged-edged knife. The wound was so horrific and deep, it still baffles everyone how she survived. But not only did she survive, she was conscious the entire time! Thanks to the quick actions of the paramedics, they were able to protect the airway and place a tracheostomy."
5. "We once had a lady who was driving and a tree fell in front of her car, causing her to drive into it. She came in with a four-inch diameter branch completely impaling her through her stomach and out of her back. She was completely awake, alert, on face mask laying on her side because the branch was still through her back when she arrived to the OR. She did great and walked out of the hospital with minimal complications."
6. "About 15 years ago, [my brother] was in his mid-20s and messing around with drugs and alcohol pretty heavily. One night he and some friends, all high out of their minds, decide to break into a cellphone tower and climb to the top. Once there, my brother makes the typically sound decision to try to 'skate' down one of the anchoring wires on his sneakers while clutching two beers for balance. Of course things went badly, he fell almost as soon as he let go of the tower, plummeting almost 80 feet straight down."
"He landed on one of the posts for the chain link fence the group had cut through to get there, impaling himself through the abdomen and pelvis as well as completely pulverizing his feet, lower legs, and hips.
My parents were contacted in the middle of the night and we all caught the first plane out to the hospital to say our goodbyes. We expected to arrive too late. The doctors said there was no way he would survive the night and even if he did, by some miracle, he would never walk again. However, he didn't die before we got there and actually managed to recover almost all of his mobility over the next few years."
7. "I've told this story before, but I will never not be astounded by it...C1 DISLOCATION LADY! She was in a car crash earlier that day, checked out by paramedics at the scene and cleared. Couple hours later, her head really hurt, so she was told to go to ER. WALKED in with her skull quite literally not attached to her spine. In 99.9999999% of cases, that's instant death. How she managed to survive many hours with her head detached from the rest of her body, none of us will ever know."
8. "A man who goes to church with my in-laws was trampled by a 1900 lb bull. No broken bones. Not even a fracture. All he got was a mild concussion and needed some muscle relaxers."
9. "Doing my internship in a local hospital. ... A 31 y/o man was shot, then dropped at the local ER by the same guys who shot him. In total, he had 10 gunshot wounds across his thorax, abdomen, pelvis and legs. The bullets went through almost every single organ, and also broke a femur and a tibia. Needless to say, he was in hypovolemic shock and needed emergency surgery and blood transfusions."
"Look, I cannot tell you how much care has gone into his case. He spent three months in the ICU, and he's now at the Surgery floor of the hospital. So far, he's had 25+ surgical interventions (and counting) from three different teams and over 50 bags of blood. At one point, one of the teams realized they couldn't completely close his abdomen after one particular surgery, and decided to leave his abdomen open. ... He's also had multiple infections, both nosocomial and from his own digestive tract (one bullet entered through the abdomen, pierced his rectum and exited through one of his buttcheeks, and during the healing process, the wound became a fistula that continuously dripped pus and mucus riddled with bacteria in and out of the abdominal cavity), to the point he fell into septic shock twice. Regular antibiotics weren't doing their job no more, so Infectology had to be called in regularly as he needed — and still needs — one hell of an antibiotic cocktail.
Although he's still not completely out of the woods, at least the surgeons were able to successfully close his abdomen, his infection is currently under control, and his legs are finally healing properly. If you ask me, he'll probably live (if the local gangs don't invade the hospital and kill him before he's discharged, because it almost happened with him a month into his stay)."
10. "In May of 2019, [my dad] got hit by a train on his bicycle; the police report said it was going 80mph. When we got to the hospital on the first day, the doctors basically told us to prepare for his death. His blood pressure was dropping like crazy, but they cut a hole in his stomach and that seemed to stabilize things for the first night. He woke up a few weeks later and had broken all his ribs on the right; some on the left, both collar bones, his right arm; collapsed both lungs; and had a traumatic brain injury. After he woke up in the ICU he was acting pretty wild. The doctors told us he would never return to his job or regain the level of intelligence he had pre-accident."
"Eventually he left the ICU, went to general ward, and then two rehabs. He left the second rehab early. By Aug 2019 he went back to his job as a VP. His speech was still slightly impaired at this time. In December 2019 he bought a new bike. As of today, he seems completely normal. Long shot, but if you were one of the first responders for this accident I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Whatever you did on that first day probably ensured that he got to live."
11. "A couple months ago I had a serious skydiving accident in which neither my primary or reserve parachute opened properly: The reserve wasn't even open halfway. Ended up with a shattered femur, open book pelvis, burst fracture on my back and some broken ribs. I will not be skydiving again, but I will be able to walk.My wife is a flight nurse and her fellow co-workers saved my life on the helicopter."
12. "Had a STEMI patient dead on the Cath lab table who was defibrillated 48 times, we said we will do one more then call it. 49th shock then Sinus rhythm. Dude was playing golf 2 months later."
13. "We had a guy come in to ER because he was feeling 'kind of dizzy and out of breath.' They ordered a standard array of labs, and when we (the lab) drew his blood, we noticed that his blood seemed really thin and watery. That was because he had A FUCKING 2.7 HEMOGLOBIN. For those of you who know hemoglobin values, I swear on my mother I am telling the truth that this man was both walking and conscious when he came in. He even argued about being admitted overnight. We couldn’t even get his sample to run at first. We had to fuck with the sensors for it to register. For those of you who don’t know hemoglobin values, it’s basically measuring “how much blood is in your blood,” and therefore how much oxygen is capable of being carried throughout your body. Normal hemoglobin is roughly 12-16 or so, depending on age and gender. Below 10 is where they start considering the possibility of transfusion, and below 8 is considered critical. A 2.7 should be dead."
14. "A friend of mine was in a tractor accident as a kid. The tractor rolled, threw him from the seat, and then landed on top of him. Somehow he survived [and] went through nearly a year of surgery and physical therapy. By the end he had to have his scalp, sternum, jaw, shins, and one of his forearm replaced with titanium."
"I called him a cyborg because he would show off his titanium parts by having people punch him in the chest or by shoving his head through stuff. He ended up at the hospital while I knew him because someone tried to fight him and broke their hand on his skull. He took the guy to hospital since he couldn't drive himself."
15. "My wife, 47 years old in great shape (walking seven miles a day), complained of stomach cramps. ... Two days before Christmas, she came home and said she thought she had the flu and just wanted to sleep. When she was changing, I noticed her swollen belly. Her normal washboard stomach looked five months pregnant. I took her to the ER as 'that isn't right.'"
"The nurse kept asking, 'how many months pregnant?' She had a full hysterectomy, so that was not possible. Explained 'rapid change to her belly.' Fourteen hours passed, [and we] finally got her X-rays. Radiologist noted 'full of air.' [She had a] ruptured colon and she just said [she] 'doesn't feel well.'
[She was] fully septic. The ascending colon was removed, and an ileostomy was fitted. Sepsis shut down everything, and her heart kept pumping. She coded numerous times in recovery. ... Hospital folks would tell her she was the Christmas miracle. Still amazed she is still with me 17 years later.
For the longest time, she kept asking her surgeon, 'what is typical recovery time' and he deferred the question. She had an additional seven surgeries, so we got to know her surgeon, and he finally admitted, 'you're the only one who survived a total septic shutdown.'"
16. "A few years back, a gang member around where I lived at had his face shot off by a shotgun in a shootout with police. ... [The] cop tried to blast his head off, but the shot got his lower jaw, nose, teeth, etc. MF walks out of that, then gets admitted into a hospital. And well, a couple of months later, a photo of the dude, in prison, surfaces online: Aside from slight scarring, the dude looks normal. Can't eat solids for a while, though."
17. "Hematologist here (i deal with leukemias/lymphomas, unexplained anemia, that kind of stuff). My favorite story to tell is of a patient — gonna call him Mr. X. Well, Mr. X is a 38-year-old patient who presented with swollen abdomen, extreme fatigue, peripheral edema and multiple enlarged lymph nodes. To paint a mental image, imagine a huge purple potato with toothpicks for limbs and inflated gloves for hands — wasn't looking human at all. After a lymph node biopsy the diagnosis came: Hodgkin's Lymphoma (HL)."
"Now, HL is one of the few curable diseases if treated correctly (six to eight rounds of chemotherapy); however, the subtype was rather aggressive and with poor prognosis so his chances were grim, to say the least. One course of chemo is about a month, but seeing his status not improving after two weeks (half a round of chemo) he wanted to be discharged to 'die in his bed in his home' so he calls his friend to pick him up and off they go.
One month later, a healthy looking man (fit, groomed) approaches me and tells me he'd like to continue the chemotherapy because he's feeling great. I had no idea who I was talking to until he introduced himself as Mr. X. My jaw dropped to the floor and I sort of rushed to schedule his next rounds of chemo. I asked him what changed his mind about staying and he tells me that on the way home, after about an hour on the road he's got a weird appetite so he asked his friend to pick up about a dozen cans of Spam* (the European equivalent at least) and he just devoured them on the way home. Seeing that, his friend told him when they got home: 'well, X, if you can cram that shit in your stomach I'm pretty sure you can take at least two more rounds of chemo.' So there he was — the living proof that Spam changes lives. So at the end of chemo (8 rounds), he had what we call a 'Complete response (CR)' — a CR that lasts to this day (5 years later), pretty much equivalent to 'cured.'"
18. "Med student here. I've seen quite a few patients who tried to attempt suicide by shooting themselves in the head and failed for one reason or another. Last one I saw, he put a .22 rifle under his chin and sent the bullet straight up into his nasal cavity, missing the brain entirely. He was ultimately discharged (to a psych facility) after only spending about two weeks in the hospital."
19. "Baby born at 23 weeks — had open heart surgery three times, had NEC, and went into cardiac arrest after I had to give her CPR for over an hour to revive her. And she's currently 9 months adjusted now. NICU babies are so fucking strong it's unbelievable sometimes."
20. "Fellow NICU nurse—we had a set of triplets born at 23 weeks, and after multiple brain bleeds/MSETs/meningitis among the three of them (basically they all had moments where the whole unit/treatment team was sure they wouldn’t make it through), all three went home without oxygen and bottle feeding like champions. Babies are so unbelievably resilient, it’s incredible."
21. "Young man (early 20s), electrician, working on the roof of a three level new home build. His boss didn’t supply harnessing and he fell onto a concrete pad below. Broke every bone in his face, both wrists and one forearm. I didn’t meet him until three days later on the orthopaedic ward where the nurses were calling him 'the boy who lived' (one of the HP movies had not long [ago] come out)."
22. "Wound care director (nurse) specializing in wounds for six years now. Two wild wound stories patients shouldn’t have survived: Patient A was a regular lady, little overweight, some mild hypertension, nothing wild. Smart woman, worked a full-time job, aviation mechanic. Comes into my work with NF (necrotizing fasciitis): flesh-eating bacteria, deadly, gnarly shit. She had a 10% chance of survival. Her peritoneum was exposed completely. It had eaten her skin and soft tissues across her abdomen, all the way across top to bottom, around her flanks, the tops of her thighs, top of her vagina, under her breasts. The wound measured about 70.0cmx120.0cm with a depth of 7.0cm or so in some parts."
"After many months of wound care, skin grafts, and PT/OT, she walked right out of the facility. Scarred, but completely fine! All of it started from a bug bite/cut on her stomach after swimming in one of the local lakes in our state."
23. And here's the same nurse's second story... "Patient B was a patient suffering from severe mental illness. Her and her mother (also had mental illness issues) were living in a motel. One day patient B up and decided she just 'wasn’t going to walk anymore.' She sat in the motel chair for roughly 45 days straight, urinating, defecating, not showering, etc. in this chair. Literally lived and sat in the same spot. Eventually motel staff received complaints of foul smells, they called the fire department. Her flesh had rotted off — pressure injury that went necrotic — and was eaten away by maggots in that chair. When they lifted her off her skin had literally liquified into that chair."
"For obvious reasons Patient B and her mom became APS cases, and they actually became some of my favorite patients for many years! By the time Patient B got to me, she had had multiple debridement surgeries and she was left with a permanent colostomy and urostomy. Her wound was 20-25cm deep approximately ... I could put my arm halfway up my forearm in her wound and move them side to side, it was easily 60cm wide by 40cm in length, sacral bone exposed bilaterally, with the bottom 3-4 vertebrae exposed too. Both buttcheeks were gone, it was just a very deep hole, muscle and bone at this point. In 1.5 years, her skin grew back beautifully though. What I found amazing was the bodies ability to grow back separate cheeks LOL I know that might sound odd, but from where it was — a massive hole — to two decent cheeks...the body never ceases to amaze me!"
24. "Not a doctor or nurse but me. Run over by a dump truck. 2 staph infections in my lungs. 107.8 temp. Coma for 42 days. Heart stopped 3 times. I'm still here."
25. "Was a firefighter a while ago and heard this from the EMTs. Basically they had picked up an extremely intoxicated native Alaskan guy wandering around in –30° in shorts and a t-shirt. Turns out he'd been wandering for hours and hours and had severe hypothermia and should have been a popsicle. The kicker is when they did a blood alcohol test, he was three times the limit it takes to die from alcohol poisoning. They believed that the only reason he didn't freeze to death was the alcohol acted like antifreeze and stopped his flesh from fully freezing."
26. "My 12-year-old neighbor was hit by bus. According to witnesses, he flew a few meters in the air and landed on the street. When he got to the ER they did a few test, sew up some cuts and let him go THAT DAY."
27. "Patient here. Last year, I walked into the doctor's for a checkup and found that i had pretty much no red blood cells. Dr kept me in the room an hour asking me questions and kept wondering how i'd managed to walk to the office alone much less how i was standing in front of her and not collapsed on the floor. Apparently I'd had SEVERE anemia for about five-ish years and was just living with it."
28. And finally, I'll end on this long story:
"Back in 2008, I was a senior in high school. ... One day about a week before Valentine's day my mom started complaining of a headache. ... She was senistive to light. She didn't really have an appetite. And she said keeping her eyes closed helped. This headache went on for about two days before she decided to go to the ER. The doctor at the ER told her she just had a head cold. ... Well, a day later she started getting worse. ... We ended up taking her back to the ER, and she saw the same ER doctor again. Once again, he told her she just had a severe head cold. He did not run any scans or tests. So again, we took her back home. Mind you, even though she was in great pain, she still got up and walked on her own and was still talking normally.
... After another day or so went by, she still was not getting any better. She was consistently getting worse and worse. Finally, we talked her to going back to the ER because this whole situation was scaring us. This time we saw a different doctor. ... He immediately wanted her to do a CT scan. ... He said she had a bursted brain aneurysm deep in her brain and that her brain was in fact bleeding on the inside. ... He was pale as a ghost because he said he's never seen or heard of anyone living with a bursted brain aneurysm. He couldn't believe she was up walking around and still talking. He told us she should be dead. We were in shock. My mother has been dealing with this FOR A WHOLE WEEK.
The doctor and nurses prepared my mom to be taken by helicopter up to OKC to see one of the best brain surgeons in the state and have immediate brain surgery. However, when they got her to OKC she ended up having a massive stroke. (This is what they were trying to avoid happening.) The stroke affected her vocal cords and the right side of her body. Once again, she lived through all of that. And she still hadn't had her brain surgery. Once the brain surgeon explained to us how this surgery was going to go, my dad had to sign a paper giving his consent that it was okay for my mom to be 'legally dead' for just a few minutes while the surgeon clips this bleeding aneurysm in her brain. It was the only option considering he had to go deep in her brain. The surgeon had the means to bring her back to life once he finished the procedure. ... She made it through the 8 hour surgery so beautifully.
... My mother had to be in ICU for over a month. ... After the ICU she went to 2 different rehab facilities. She fought hard to learn to walk again. ... Fast forward to this present day. My mother is still very alive and well. She's been on a long journey over the years. The doctors all told us she might not make it fice years after she had her brain surgery. 14 years later she's still here and doing better than ever. She walks and exercises every day. She does everything for herself. She cooks, cleans, and can even drive! Her voice isn't 100 percent but I can understand her just fine. Her health has never been better!"
What's your "I should have died but didn't" story? Let us know in the comments below!
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.