Primary Care Physician
Dr. Orrange received her BA in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, and a Masters Degree in Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. She received her MD from the USC Keck School of…
8 Crazy Stories From The ER
Posted in Accidents by Dr. Sharon Orrange on Jul 07, 2008

I've spent a lot of time in the ER, and I'm always asked to describe the most unusual cases I've handled. Over the years, I've compiled an unofficial list in my head, but have never written them down until now.


The cases below involve conditions and symptoms that are seldom discussed in everyday conversation. Some may find them distasteful or too intense. The fact remains that they do occur regularly in real life, and discussing them can remove the stigma or embarrassment that may prevent someone from seeking medical help.


This article is not for the faint of heart. If you are squeamish or easily offended by frank discussion or graphic medical images, please read no further.


Time Doesn't Heal Everything - Get To The Doctor


A morbidly obese man with a large abdominal pannus came in exhibiting red, irritated skin around the abdomen. It looked like a routine skin infection. But what was the cause? During the exam, I lifted the pannus and a turkey sandwich fell from between his folds. The man said it was about a month old, which the smell confirmed.


As you might imagine, abdominal pannus is very common given the much-talked-about obesity epidemic. The most common complication is yeast infection (intertrigo). If you have an abdominal pannus, the goal is to keep the skin under the pannus dry and clean.


Three tips: 1) After bath or shower, lift the hanging skin and air dry or blow dry on cool setting. 2) Use an antifungal powder like nystatin (prescription) or a non-talc powder. 3) If area appears red or itchy, try an over-the-counter antifungal cream.


A woman living alone with multiple medical problems came in complaining of odor and itching of her feet. In what was left of both of her feet wet gangrene had taken over, along with hundreds of maggots. In the folded skin in the groin were more maggots.


As you may have heard, maggots do keep skin lesions clean. But they aren’t easy to get rid of, as they scamper deeper into the wound when they see you coming.


An older gentleman man came in with many complications from his diabetes. I went to take off his socks and as I began to examine him, the tip of his second toe broke off into my hand like a piece of turkey bacon. It was dry gangrene.


Most people have a fuzzy understanding of gangrene -- it's unpleasant to look at and mostly affects fingers and toes. But what is it, really? Gangrene is the death of tissue, almost always from a lack of blood flow. Wet gangrene involves a bacterial infection, dry gangrene does not. Diabetes, circulatory issues, and smoking are some common culprits. In fact, gangrene from diabetes is the most common cause of non-traumatic amputation.


All diabetics should examine their feet daily for any signs of redness or skin breakdown. Since sensation is diminished in the feet, a visual check is critical.


Dry gangrene is usually ischemic (i.e. decreased blood flow to the area) and usually occurs in someone with peripheral vascular disease. Dry gangrene should be very painful in the early stages. A red or purple discoloration will progress to black without intervention. Early evaluation and vascular surgery is the only chance of saving the finger, toe or limb.


Private Part Mishaps


Periodically, men have arrived in the ER with the same complaint: "Doctor, my junk is purple." The culprit is always a metal cock ring that got stuck. I've learned that regular ring cutters available in the ER don’t work. The time it takes to get more powerful (and cringe inducing) wire cutters does not help calm the patient’s nerves.


Guys, please consider the alternatives to metal -- latex, rubber, silicone, leather, velcro, etc.


An elderly woman from a nursing home was brought in and complained of a "large ball” between her legs. It was her uterus, which had come out of her vagina. When one gets older everything starts to sag, and in some cases hang out, including the uterus and rectum.


A rectal prolapse is fairly common in both older men and women, and generally comes from weakened ligaments and years of strained bowel movements. So, eat fiber, drink water, and do your Kegel exercises.


Naturally, the sight of a vaginal or rectal prolapse is very distressing to patients. I find that the general silence around the subject only serves to make it that much more alarming. In reality, it is fairly common in older adults and very treatable.


Retained Objects


Doctors actually use the phrase "retained objects" to categorize this next group of cases. They are very common in the ER, but again, seldom discussed.


A man came in complaining of pain and bleeding from down below. He was trying to quit smoking and had replaced cigarettes with sunflower seeds, eating them shell and all whenever he got the urge.


During the rectal exam, we discovered a giant sunflower seed mass crowning like a baby's head. Despite castor oil and trying to “deliver” it, we ended up picking out the pieces with tweezers until it was small enough to pass.


A woman came in complaining of pain in her pelvis, so the doctor put her in the stirrups and performed a pelvic exam. He immediately removed the problem -- a set of car keys. The woman explained she didn’t want her boyfriend taking the car, so she hid the keys in a place where “he never goes”.


A patient came in with a very simple case: a toilet bowl scrubber had become lodged in his rectum. Curiously, he wasn’t sure how it got there.

So please everyone, remember to get to the doctor if something is troubling you. Don't delay, and don't be embarrassed -- we've probably seen worse.


Bonus Stories


Here are some bonus stories, which I had nothing to do with. Truth or urban legend? You decide.


An unconscious man and his girlfriend arrived with a large lump on his head and several deep scratches on his scrotum. When he awoke, he explained that he had been kneeling naked over the side of his bathtub while cleaning.


The cat must have become transfixed with his swaying testes, and it pounced. The patient struck his head as he jumped in pain, and his girlfriend found him unconscious.


Two parents in the ER were yelling and screaming, thinking that their teenage son was going blind because he was seeing spots. In private, the son revealed that his parents had caught him masturbating earlier that week and told him he would go blind if he continued.


Of course he continued, and the next time he hyperventilated and saw spots. In a panic, he told his parents about the spots, but not about his private activity. When the parents found out the whole story, they loudly complained that their son could, in fact, have gone blind from masturbation, and that we were negligent in not taking them seriously.


While making small talk with an older female patient, she mentioned that the "Kentucky Jelly" on her breakfast tray had a very strange taste. When I asked to see the jelly, the woman handed me a foil packet labeled "KY Jelly."


An elderly woman came into the ER complaining she had green vines in her "virginny". A pelvic exam verified that she did have a six-inch vine growing out of her vagina, and x-rays revealed it was growing from a potato in her vaginal vault.


She explained that her uterus was falling out, so she put a potato in there to hold it up and had forgotten. (Another uterine prolapse. Remember to do your Kegel's, ladies.)

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By sambod  Oct 25, 2010
"An elderly woman came into the ER complaining she had green vines in her "virginny". A pelvic exam verified that she did have a six-inch vine growing out of her vagina, and x-rays revealed it was growing from a potato in her vaginal vault.
She explained that her uterus was falling out, so she put a potato in there to hold it up and had forgotten."

... wtf. wow. o_o
By DianaxLynn  Apr 03, 2010
The stories is realy crazy, like a">sildenafil stories
By mar4ela  Sep 30, 2009
Oh Dear Lord...and out of MORBID Curiosity I read every one of these...some things seriously do Not need to be shared...
By DakotaRose  May 31, 2009
I wouldn't have believed it if you hadn't shown the evidence...I had always thought that these ER stories were gross exaggerations ... now and I see they are often disguised unrevealed. Thank you Sharon for shedding much needed light on a topic which in large part remains on the fringe of medicine.
By DanRuff1  Dec 05, 2008
A caution Re kegels. (Story 5)
I used to perform them occasionally, using I guess the "elevator" version: slowly cut off and then resume urination. Then, concerned about the few drips that came at the end of urination, I read or was told of the version that employs several reps of squeezing tight and started to employ that version of the Kegel. A few days later I suffered an intractable spasm, unable to urinate. Treatment: initially, catheter release. Then, a catheter and wearing a bag. Eventually, after a few weeks of urinary retention when not catheterized, laser treatment, burning a hole in the muscle that would not let go. The problem has not returned, but subsequent to the surgery I also have the unhappy experience of retrograde ejaculation, meaning that on orgasm the ejaculation goes into my bladder rather than out my penis. Much less satisfying, and this also meant that when we most recently tried for parenthood, the urologist had to pierce my scrotum to withdraw sperm from my testes. (An alternate approach would have been to centrifuge my urine.)
Obviously, I was not in risk of prolapse, and presumably had some predisposition to
By wossname  Nov 30, 2008
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Now I remember why I stopped working in the ER and went to Detox/Psych Units. These stories are absolutely believable if you've ever worked in an ER.

My 1st experience of a strange occurance was a man who had trouble sitting. He said it was very painful and he was tired of standing all the time. They found a screwdriver in his bowels...way above the rectum.

These are the most graphic stories but I know you had to experience patients that pulled hard on the heart strings. It got to be too emotional a setting for me.
By Happyinlalaland  Nov 03, 2008
Hmmmm Johansson, where did you go? I sent you a message.
By DrOrrange  Aug 27, 2008
haha good reading but definetly not true. by the look of your medical knowladge your an amateur. iv'e spent a alot of time in different countries such as the us, cambodja, malaysia, poland, chile and canada preparing for my Ed.D position at Cleveland Clinic. i know my stuff and several of your "stories" just dont add up. your a shame to the doctors of the world.
By Johansson  Aug 01, 2008
Lots of good advice here...kegel exercises are my new best friend! And I think I'll stay away from potatoes and Kentucky Jelly.
By patti22  Jul 26, 2008
so glad I found this on d/s
always love your posts
haven't been on alot but alwasys read whe i see your name.
Don't know how i missed this
wonderful idea.
signed up for the alerts.
By JudyL  Jul 24, 2008
I have heard some whoppers in my time, but these take the cake. Thanks for the laugh.
By ZAZAS  Jul 14, 2008
Thanks for these stories, they made me laugh.
By enya4me  Jul 13, 2008
Ummm, Okay my bad. lol. But then you are a bad person for putting "spelled" instead of spelling. I think we should just be nice. I don't think either one of us will go to hell for poor grammar.
By Owshen  Jul 10, 2008
no, youre a bad person for spelled "hilarious" with an E.
By VeeV  Jul 10, 2008
i wonder if a small maggot vacuum would work--similar to the saliva vacuum dentists use.
By nicholas  Jul 09, 2008
AWESOME!!!!! These stories are GREAT!!! Am I a bad person if I find some of them hillariouse??? I figure, Hey, If I can laugh at myself, then I can laugh at other people too. -Just careful who I let see me doing it-, I'm not totally insensitive.
By Owshen  Jul 08, 2008
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