Monday, August 15, 2011

Medical Mondays: Think Outside The Species

Today's post is a walk down memory lane. One of my teaching attendings told me this story a long time ago in med school. I'm sure I'm about to mess up some of the details of this story, but anyway, here goes.

In the 1980's, a young man in this twenties came into the ER on an almost weekly basis. He would show up in the waiting room, vomit a quart of red blood all over the floor, and get ushered into an ER slot immediately.

He complained of excruciating stomach pain and terrible dizzness. After getting IV's placed and labs drawn, the ER staff would find him dangerously anemic. He'd get blood tranfusions immediately, perhaps 2 or 3 PRBCs (packed red blood cells, or concentrated red cells).

As soon as he was stable, they'd offer him an emergent endoscopy (a camera down his mouth into his stomach under light anesthesia) to find the source of the bleeding.

He always refused. He'd tear out his IVs, and leave AMA (against medical advice).

To the frustration of the GI, Medicine, and ER staff, he kept coming to the ER.

He kept getting vomiting blood.

He kept getting transfused.

He kept refusing the life-saving diagnostic test that might save his life.

Finally, one day after another ER visit, a curious medical student asked if he could look at the vomited blood under the microscope.

This is what he saw:


See, the blood the guy vomited all had nuclei in the red cells. Human red blood cells lose their nucleus during the maturation process. They look like little red bags with nothing in them.

What was wrong with this guy? And why did his blood look like that?

Well, the smart medical student also looked at the patient's real blood (a sample taken from his vein) under a microscope too. And it looked normal, like the blood on the left side of the picture.

Turns out, this guy was donating blood for money. Afterwards, he'd go to a local slaughterhouse, buy a few pints of chicken's blood (avian blood always has nuclei in the red blood cells). Then he'd go to the ER, drink the lot right outside the door, walk in and make some noise about his stomach hurting, then hurl chicken blood all over the place.

Let me tell you, there's nothing like a man vomiting a ton of red blood to make the ER staff jump up and take notice.

As always, his lab test would show he was anemic (because he'd just donated); the ER would stabilize him by transfusing blood; and he'd disappear before the endoscopy.

Then, his veins plump with new, transfused blood, he'd head for another Red Cross center and sell off the pints of blood he'd just received.

Is that crazy and brilliant and awful, or what?

Lesson learned. When thinking of a weird medical situation for your story, also consider thinking outside the species.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

60 comments:

Sarah said...

That story is both awesome and terrible. It's the stuff of urban legend! Great post, Lydia. You never disappoint.

Isis Rushdan said...

That story is so insane! I've never head anything like that. Thanks for the post.

Laura Eno said...

That's brilliant - in a disgusting sort of way. :) Definitely thinking outside the box!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm speechless. All the money that was wasted because of this, and all those poor people made to wait longer because he was deemed a medical emergency. Yay for the brillant med student. :D

In Canada, blood donation is voluntary so this would never happen.

Laura Pauling said...

I can't believe that! I guess brilliant in a weird sort of way.

julie fedderson said...

This is so devious, I can't believe it wasn't one of my patients. And who knew chicken blood has nuclei? I will never look at Foghorn Leghorn as an equal again.

mshatch said...

it's amazing - and awful! - what people will do for money.

Karen Lange said...

Interesting - in a disgusting sort of way...It would make an interesting plot or character twist, that's for sure!

Talli Roland said...

EWWWW!!!! That's insane! What a story.

Old Kitty said...

Wow!! How incredible!! Wow!! Now that is what I call a story and a half and more!! Yikes!!! The guy was a either a genius or just crazy or plain greedy! LOL!

Take care
x

vbtremper said...

Um, wow. Lydia, I have no words. But, I bet Sarah could do a post on this and it would fit right into your (as in you, Laura and Sarah) theme. Because there must be more than just desperation for money and a sick brilliance, right?

-Vicki

Giles Hash said...

Random question, is it possible to die or cause serious damage by suppressing a sneeze?

B.E. Sanderson said...

Now that's going a long way to get some money. Sheesh. Ugh, I can't even envision drinking chicken blood, let alone throwing it all back up again later. Ewewew.

shelly said...

What a career choice, huh?

Miss Sharp said...

What happened the next time he showed up in the ER???

Bossy Betty said...

Fascinating! And to think I used Chicken's Blood only for special occasions!

Kelly said...

WOW! Truth is stranger than fiction!
How did he pay for all the ER visits? You would think that would be more expensive than the $ he got for the blood. But I guess if he was selling his blood, he probably had the govt pay for his medical visits, no?

Danyelle L. said...

Wow. There just aren't any words...

linda said...

@.@ That is SO GROSS! And very sneaky. But yay for the brilliant med student who figured it out!

Lydia K said...

@Giles, if you suppress a sneeze, your brains might implode.

Just kidding. No harm in suppressing a sneeze.

@Kelly, he probably used a fake name or had no insurance. Yes, the taxpayers probably ate up his ER costs.

@Miss Sharp, I have no idea what happened to him! I think they probably confronted him and he ran away. But that could just be my improvising imagination.

Chris Phillips said...

It would be brilliant if it didn't involve him drinking chicken blood.

Carol Kilgore said...

That guy was weird. Laura Diamond should talk about his mental state.

But you're so right about thinking outside the box.

Linda Gray said...

Eeuwww! What an excellent plot device. And thanks for the comic relief--after reading along, glued to your story, curious and horrified, if was great to get to the chicken Bok Bok-ing!

Suze said...

Christ, that's disturbing. Makes for a damn engaging blog post, though!

Krispy said...

This is so weird and amazing, and yes, pretty brilliant. Although, I can't imagine being able to force myself to drink chicken blood like that. D: Gross.

Jonene Ficklin said...

Oh, that is just hilariously sad! Makes you ask yourself, what kind of life is that - so not worth it. Great story though, and definitely outside the box. Thanks for getting my brain going!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now that was someone desperate for money!

Heather said...

Wow that is weird! Think outside the species, I love that! This is one story I won't soon forget. *shudders*

Rachna Chhabria said...

What a weird fellow, that man was. I sure I will remember this story all my life.

Taryn Tyler said...

That story makes me feel slightly sick. Not sure if it's the blood or the moral outrage. haha. Chicken blood. yuck.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia!
chicken blood! ack! yikes! pretty yucky way to get some money and for sure pretty messy. you got some way strange stories!
...hugs from lenny

Jill said...

So, since he vomited it up right away, it didn't give him any diseases? Could you get a disease from drinking raw animal blood? Gross!

KarenG said...

Oh my gosh. I am sending this link to my nurse daughter who will love it, while I on the other hand am trying very hard to get these images out of my head LOL.

Carol Riggs said...

Gah! that's just awful, awful! I hate the practice of paying people for their blood anyway, and this proves the point. Not that this happens all the time of course, and I suppose not as many people would donate if they didn't pay, but still....

Meredith said...

Haha, I've never heard of a blood smuggler. But that is creepily genius!

Munk said...

Wonk. I rather flip hamburgers.

Munk said...

That is, I'd rather...

Bathwater said...

I agree with one commenter above it is the stuff of urban legend right there.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

It is because of donors like him, drug users, and the advent of HIV that the FDA will no longer allow blood centers who use their donated blood for patients to pay for donations.

As always, a "stimulating" post. LOL. Roland

Lisa L. Regan said...

That is crazy bizarre. Great post!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

That's disgusting! What a strange story!

J.L. Campbell said...

That tactic was weirdly brilliant, but I can't help wondering if his arm and/or vein didn't begin to feel like a sieve. :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

Ho.Lee.Smokes.

This is about the best truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story I've heard in a long time.

Wow. I couldn't make up anything half as good as this!

Liza said...

Yeow. I don't know WHAT to think!

Helen Ginger said...

How did he even come up with such a thing? And once he did, how did he manage to go through with it? Yuck. It would make an excellent ploy to use in a book, though.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

That guy was going through a lot to get money by seliing blood. Seems like he should have come up with an easier way to make money.

Connie Keller said...

Only one word to describe it. WOW. Okay, amazing, unbelievable, etc., all work too.

I can't wait to tell the story to my friend who's a doctor, but I'll give you credit. :)

Ciara said...

That is so disturbing. Wow, what some people will do.

Emy Shin said...

I feel terrible for find this story hilarious. The guy's crazy, but definitely brilliant. You have to admire him a little for that.

LTM said...

What tha... What? He'd ... drink chicken blood and then barf it all over the ER?!?

Sounds to me like this guy has bigger problems than money. :D

sigh.

You funny thing w/the stories! ;p

Walt Mussell said...

That upped the disgust meter a few notches.

Carrie Butler said...

Wow! I'm going to have to agree with everyone else. That was one of the best truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories I've ever heard. Great post, Lydia! Oh, and, as always, the visuals are awesome. :D

Slamdunk said...

Now that is a creative mind who def never had to wait in line...

Shelley Munro said...

Wow! That is just bizarre. Just thinking about it makes me a little squeamish!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Omigosh that's insane!! And brilliantly twisted!

Arlee Bird said...

It's one of the crazier things I've heard of and it's pretty awful as well. There are probably a lot of folks who abuse the system in order to benefit from it and in the current economy I'll bet it's getting worse.


Lee
Tossing It Out

Olga said...

Someday, I WILL write a mystery novel, and you will be to blame :)

Melody said...

That has to be one of the craziest, most brilliant, most disturbing things I've ever read. :) But thank you for posting it...I love things out of the box, haha. :)

Medeia Sharif said...

What a crazy, but cunning guy. Thank you for sharing.

lbdiamond said...

Ewww.

 
ALL CONTENT © 2012 THE WORD IS MY OYSTER / BLOG DESIGN © 2012 SMITTEN BLOG DESIGNS