Every job has its share of competent people and not-so-competent people—but when that job involves saving people’s lives, proficiency and aptitude matter more than usual. That’s why it’s so shocking when people receive a diagnosis from one doctor, only to seek a second opinion from another and discover the initial finding was totally off the mark. These second-opinion stories can teach us all a thing or two about taking our health and physical well-being more seriously.
1. Stop, Look, And Listen
I’m an emergency doctor in the midwestern USA. The patient was transferred from some rural nowhere to our tertiary care facility. We’re a big hospital with every kind of specialist. The transferring physician described a 21-year-old male who had a rapid heart rate and breathing rate, low blood pressure, low oxygen, confusion, and a severe opacification on his chest X-ray on the right side. He was initially diagnosed with pneumonia.
They gave him a ton of fluids, started antibiotics, and put him on a ventilator, but he wasn’t getting better. So they wanted to send him to us. We said sure, send away. An hour later, the gentleman arrived—he looked young, fit, and not the type to just drop from pneumonia. We rolled him onto our stretcher and our jaws dropped to the floor—we found a huge open wound in his back.
The X-ray found his entire right chest full of blood. We put a tube in it, gave him back some blood, and he had to go for surgery to fix the bleeding. Lesson: Actually look at your patient.