ER Doctors Reveal the Craziest Things They've Seen at Work

craziest things ER doctors have seen
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Think you've had a stressful day at your job? Try helping a screaming patient with a foreign object stuck up his rectum, terrified that it will never be retrieved.

This is just a taste (gross) of what it's like being an emergency room doctor, the medical professionals whose job it is to stay calm and keep a straight face, even in the most dangerous or bizarre circumstances. 

To give you a better idea of just how bizarre those circumstances can be, ER doctors revealed the wildest situations they've encountered on the job. Spoiler alert: People love putting stuff up their own butts.  

Well, that's one use for a candle...

"As an ER doctor, we see a lot all the time. There's not a single shift I work where I am not asking myself, 'How in the world did they do that?' This day was no different when a male patient walked in with his wife and said, 'It's stuck! It's stuck!' The nurse and I asked him, 'What's stuck, sir?' He replied, 'I put a candle in my butthole and can't get it out!' All sorts of things were running through our minds, and we were hoping the candle was a votive kind, not the ones still with glass containers.

"But we knew the first thing we had to do was take a look at his bottom and get an X-ray, because most X-rays will reveal foreign bodies. There was nothing I could see by just examining his buttocks. But sure enough, the X-ray showed that it was a round candle that was still in the glass container!  It was one of those standard 3-4in round candles in containers that most convenience stores sell. The patient had stuck it far up and had no way to retrieve it! He felt stupid. He felt embarrassed. Ultimately, he had to go to surgery immediately so the surgeon could carefully dilate his rectum and get the candle out.

"It was painful for the patient. I had to ask him before discharge, 'Did you light the candle before sticking it up your butt or no?' He just laughed to try and console himself through the pain. Moral of the story: Don't put anything into your body out of your reach that you can't retrieve back easily." -- Dr. Jerisa Berry, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, co-owner of Vital Care Medical Center

Fishing for flesh

"Thankfully, a patient had a sense of humor when things go wrong while fishing. His fish hook didn't grab any fish in Lake Michigan this day, but instead decided to grab a big piece of his scalp! He came into the ER with a big fish hook lodged in the right side of his head. As an ER doctor, the first thing I think of is how the scalp can bleed very easily and profusely and thankfully, the hook was controlling the bleeding where it was stuck.

"But once I removed it, I needed to prepare for the amount of blood that would be released. The difficulty with fish hooks is their rigged shape. They have a circular curve with a barb and gap, which causes them to do real damage on what should be fish (not humans). Fishers rip them off after they capture fish, but there was no way I could just rip it off his scalp.

"Coaching the patient through the process so he could relax, I numbed the area and had to create a bit of a wide incision around the entry of the fish hook, and rotate and wiggle it out. Because I used a little epinephrine, I was able to minimize the amount of bleeding after removal. I then repaired the wound with sutures. When there is a foreign body stuck anywhere on your body, it's important to leave it stuck until you seek medical attention. Removing it without assistance could cause further damage." -- Dr. Jerisa Berry, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, co-owner of Vital Care Medical Center​​​​​​​

Never trust a plastic surgeon from a hardware store

"In 2009, there was a patient presented to the emergency room in Rhode Island. She had had some form of 'HydroGel' (she called it that) injected in large volume, approximately 2 liters (which is a very large quantity), one into each buttock. I believe by 'HydroGel,' she meant some sort of silicone-based product like silicone bathroom caulk. The patient said that she was injected by someone in Miami who claimed to be a nurse, and who performed the procedure in their home.

"When she came to the ER, she had a high fever and was draining pus on both buttocks, which were red, swollen, painful, and infected. We took her to the operating room, and because the external substance was so integrated into the tissue within and around the fat cells, we had to make multiple large incisions on both buttocks' fat. Afterwards, her buttocks looked like she had been attacked by a bear. The only way to get rid of the infection was to fully remove the external substance. We left the incisions opened and packed them with gauze.

"She was on IV antibiotics for nearly a week with daily dressing changes in the hospital before leaving against medical advice and disappearing. She ultimately went on Tyra Banks' talk show." -- Joshua Zuckerman, MD, FACS

The not-so-great escape

"A daring young man who was high on meth decided to plan his great escape from the ER. He was able to climb into the drop ceiling, and was making his way out of the room... until he fell through the ceiling. He landed on the floor at the foot of the stretcher and ended up breaking his arm." -- Kevin Haselhorst, MD, emergency medicine physician, author of Wishes to Die For

That's not how plungers work

"A young man was experiencing constipation and decided he needed a plunger. He grabbed for the toilet bowl brush and used the handle to insert into his rectum. The plastic hand had a curved hook on it, which got snagged on his anus. He was unable to remove it without horrific pain. EMS was called, and he was transported to the ER with the bushy tail feather dangling from his butt. With the help of his new wife comforting him on one side of the stretcher and moderate sedation, the doctor worked from the other end to dis-impact the toilet brush from his rectum." -- Kevin Haselhorst, MD, emergency medicine physician, author of Wishes to Die For

One vodka rectum, please

"I had a patient once who had a 1-liter bottle of vodka inserted into his rectum while he was under the influence. We had to put him on laxatives and use a type of enema to try to lubricate the area and avoid pain. He was in so much pain when he arrived, he was unable to walk. We thought surgery might be required, but he was able to pass the bottle through on his own." -- Aditi G Jha, MD, head of the doctor's panel at JustDoc

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She will never look at candles the same way again. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.