Trigger warning: This article addresses graphic medical procedures, suicide and sexual assault.
While countless TV shows delve into the life of medical professionals, most tend to focus on the personal dramas of doctors, nurses, EMTs, pathologists, often creating a distorted image of what life inside the halls of hospitals, fire stations and family practices looks like.
But Twitter’s recent #ShareAStoryInOneTweet hashtag presented a rare opportunity for us mere mortals to catch an unedited, often heartbreaking glimpse into the lives of real medical professionals and the stories, wins, losses and emotional burdens that come with the profession – something that is often overlooked.
When I first met B, he’d been dead for 20 min.
We got him back, inexplicably.
He calls me every year on the anniversary. 10 years now.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Esther Choo (@choo_ek) May 5, 2018
Started by Medical Twitter star Esther Choo – an emergency physician from Oregon – the hashtag spread like wildfire across the Twittersphere, bringing to light extremely personal stories that exemplify the emotional toll the profession takes on those who practice it and the deep empathy required to be an effective physician, as well as the power that wins can give medical professionals.
Stories ranged from the unexpected wins…
Called on Friday at 5pm to fetal MRI unit. 35wk fetus with paraspinal tumor and lower limb paralysis. Emergency delivery, chemo on Day Of Life 1. Two years later he walked into my backyard as a surprise gift from his parents. Greatest joy ever as a doctor. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Sam Blackman (@drsam) May 6, 2018
You were born with an omphalocele and almost no lung capacity. NICU docs sent you home on a vent, told me you’d die when you caught your 1st cold in my office. I did home visits for a year. You’re 22 now and I just saw your first baby for his newborn visit. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Deborah Greenhouse (@greenhousemd) May 6, 2018
You were 16 he broke in and tried to rape you and you fought like a wolverine. ED told me the story. My staff said you were toast. I took you up to surgery and removed the bone from your brain and put a ballon dural graft in. You graduated college #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Jack Kruse (@DrJackKruse) May 5, 2018
When I was a med student, i found you at the back of a ward gasping. Your heart stopped. We did CPR & after 15 minutes someone told us to stop as you were gone. I pretended to not hear. Just in the 17th minute your heart beat again. CPR may work so try.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Employee, Ministry of PappyShow (@ARaisinInTheBun) May 6, 2018
To the losses that still haunt those who did everything they could, but it still wasn’t enough…
You came on Christmas Day, a blue call.
Your young body strapped to a board, blood on your face.
A drunk driver, a kind bus driver waving you to cross the road, a cruel twist of fate.
You died, you were 6.
I couldn’t save you. I was 23.
I’m so sorry.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) May 6, 2018
The dreaded call
We were all there
“Come on Sharon, you’re too young to die!”
They tried desperately
It went quiet
We all did
You’d already gone
I seized your clothing
I wept again
It was your Daughters 5th birthday#ShareAStoryinOneTweet
— WYP_DCMadden (@WYPMadden) May 9, 2018
You argued with your Mum
You wanted to show her how angry you were, so you grabbed some tablets and took the bottle
You’ve made up by the time you were in the ED, asking when you could go home.
I looked at the bottle.
You were not going to go home.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) May 6, 2018
You came in as a self-inflicted GSW to head, and you were so young. I found the “save me” that you tattooed into the flesh of your thighs, underneath your clothes. A plea for help that I wonder if anyone heard. I wish I could’ve saved you. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Kay (@TalkNurseyToMe) May 6, 2018
We in your room the evening pre-op. We laughed about our small town roots. Your cardiac leision was not as forgiving as I had hoped. To paraphrase Henry Marsh: I carry within me a small cemetery. I visit you regularly to ask (again) for forgiveness. #shareastoryinonetweet
— Robert Chen (@ottawaheartrob) May 6, 2018
And the grateful former patients who stayed in touch…
Young man with bad depression attempts suicide with a gun. Parents find him. He goes to ER & surgery. Mom cleans brain from walls.
He lives & I see him as a #Physiatry consultant. Tell family he is in there.
7 years later, I’m a guest at his wedding. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD (@MVGutierrezMD) May 5, 2018
You were shot in the abdomen while holding your infant daughter. I repaired your stomach and liver and removed your kidney & part of your pancreas. It’s been 10 years. You still send me a Christmas card every year. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Doc Bastard (@DocBastard) May 6, 2018
He was the manager of the Chinese takeaway next to ED & he was brought in with a cardiac arrest. We resuscitated him; zapped him back to life.
Every Friday evening from then on he would carry across a huge Chinese banquet for the ED staff room.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Bear Bad Man (@Bear_Bad_Man_) May 5, 2018
You came to me in dire straits and multisystem organ failure. A year later we celebrated your marriage to the woman who gave you chest compressions and a second chance at life. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet pic.twitter.com/5DoG8Gv1Di
— Brendan Riordan (@concernecus) May 6, 2018
There were moments of confession, where costly mistakes were made…
My father was dying in ICU due to a medical error. I took the red eye and then was faced with discontinuing life support and uncaring nurses. I had a crisis. Should I leave the profession that had failed me? I chose to stay and never stop caring #ShareaStoryInOneTweet
— Judi Kane (@Desert_Goddess) May 5, 2018
I accidentally hurt a patient in residency.
I felt like a bad person; unworthy, incompetent & broken. I suffered quietly.
I reached out; I forgave myself; I focused on deficits I could fix.
My patient forgave me too.
I recovered; I learned; I grew. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Will Bynum (@WillBynumMD) May 6, 2018
And times when medical professionals needed someone to hear their pain…
Finishing up worst shift of my career: baby died-Next call a father attempted suicide by cop & instead shot himself while his 3 kids watched.
After 19hrs, I stopped to get coffee.
You saw me and said, “thanks for what you do.” I’ll never forget your face.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Liberty (@LibertyJen) May 6, 2018
You were my first patient to pass away. DNR in resp distress. No family could be reached. I was the only one with you when you passed. I couldn’t hold back the tears. A nurse came in and asked if she could pray for you. We celebrated your life together #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Giuliana Guarna (@giulianaguarna) May 6, 2018
cradled your head in my left hand so it wouldn’t lie in the desert dirt. held your limp hand with my right as you slipped away. still not brave enough to find your parents to tell them I didn’t let you die alone. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Charles Roger Levine (@MathRanger) May 6, 2018
Instances where the roles reversed, and patients helped doctors…
Lively, independent, funny nonagenarian comforting me while I gave a bad prognosis.
Within a week you passed away.
Few days later received a Christmas card from you, thanking me for helping you live your best life.
Thank you for helping me. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— M. Majmundar (@MajmundarMD) May 6, 2018
You were hit by a car right in front of me while walking your dog
I ran to you, did CPR, didn’t think you’d live
I was burned out, empty, ready to quit med
6 mo later, you called me on Christmas Eve & told me I saved you
And you ended up saving me.
— Brave Enough MD (@RUBraveEnough) May 5, 2018
I was a new 22yo nurse, absorbed in heartache from a breakup like only someone of that age can be. You were newly trached & had been in ICU for 2 wks. You touched my face & asked *me* what was wrong. I learned to be less selfish that day. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Tia X_line (@TiaX_line) May 5, 2018
As a med student, I was the only one in labor & delivery who spoke Spanish. I had to translate to a young couple that their full term baby was stillborn. I almost quit #medicine that day. 2 yrs later, she came back, pregnant, and made sure I knew it. ❤ #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Phoebe Scott-Wyard, DO (@Dr_PhoebeSW) May 5, 2018
You were told she would die. I didn’t agree. We didn’t let her.
You emailed me pictures of her 3rd birthday, her ballet classes, and the second pregnancy you never thought you would try for.
You saved me…over and over. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Puja Banka (@puja_banka) May 5, 2018
You were 25, presenting with ‘easy bruising’ and bone marrow revealed acute leukemia. We went into your room to tell you this sad news. You listened. Wide eyed. Then you said to me: “It must have been so hard for you to tell me this”. I wept#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Elizabeth Eisenhauer (@EAEisenhauer) May 6, 2018
Where breaking rules was the real ethical decision….
I smuggled contraband burgers & donuts into my Grandpa’s ICU room. We giggled, watched football and then cried when he signed his DNR. Hope that ICU team knows how grateful I am for bending the rules that night. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Stacey Springs (@SpringsStacey) May 6, 2018
You came in with end-stage heart failure, a DNR, and all you wanted to eat was bacon. I talked the cardiologist into letting you, and found you warm socks for your cold feet. I held your hand as you passed, alone, a few hours later, glad you had your bacon.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Crowing For Days (@LilRedRooster) May 6, 2018
I held your hand in the Ambulance after you’d been shot twice in the back during a botched robbery.
Your last words were, “I need to pee.”
Then you died.
I lied to your wife and told her your last words were of her.
I still think about your 5 kids.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— RookieCitySergeant (@RookieCityCop) May 8, 2018
Cautionary tales of going against science and doctors’ advice….
My mother died of cervix cancer in 1990 at the peak of cervix cancer deaths.
I will never understand people who won’t vaccinate against HPV.
I see her face in every patient I diagnose with advanced stage cervix cancer.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Ian Fields (@eeyanmiller) May 5, 2018
I saw kids die daily from measles in Kenya. I saw a women carry her child 30 miles on her back to get him vaccinated. First world parents who don’t vaccinate are spoiled fools. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— John Vann, MD (@Docsocksomaha) May 5, 2018
Nice family whose child had a small laceration which needed repair. I discovered that the child was unvaccinated. We had a long discussion about benefits/risks. Saw family 3 mo later at sandwich shop, and she told me she started vaccinating all her kids! #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Gowri Stevens (@gowri_stevens) May 5, 2018
Where politics and other external factors precipitated tragedies….
OB Gyn rotation at a Catholic hosp- Walked into the trash room and found a miscarried 20 wk fetus in a tray, still alive, beating heart, translucent skin, perfect. Alone, abandoned with the trash. In a *Catholic* hospital. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— HCS (@LayDownYourHate) May 5, 2018
While in Kenya, a woman came in septic & hemorrhaging from an #unsafeabortion.
— Luu Ireland, MD, MPH (@lirelandMD) May 5, 2018
You fled to 🇸🇪 from Africa. Liver cirrhosis made you vomit blood. I met you in the ICU during resus. Immigration rejected your visa, and a lifesaving liver transplantation. You had time to call your mother and say goodbye before you died vomiting blood.#ShareAStoryinOneTweet
— Anders Hildén (@anhilden) May 6, 2018
You were also 17. Both of us suffered a gunshot wound to the neck.
One of us ended up paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator, the other recovered and went on to become a trauma surgeon.
— Joseph Sakran (@JosephSakran) May 9, 2018
Countless arguments for the importance of access to healthcare
Hard working mom with two jobs. All three kids of her kids have asthma. Each child’s inhaler costs $30. That is $90 every month. This mom is struggling to care for her family, be responsible, and do the right thing.
Why I fight for affordable care.
— Umbereen Nehal (@usnehal) May 5, 2018
Young HIV neg adult male came in to see me to discuss getting PrEP. Referred to infectious disease dept, but lost insurance. Returned few months later once insured. Sadly, now HIV+ #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— SK Bains (@shashi_bains) May 5, 2018
A teen on 4th suicide attempt came to our service. An interesting, highly intelligent &capable person–who couldn’t see a therapist or a psychiatrist because of insurance issues with being from out of state. I still stop myself Googling to check for obit.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Kristin Puhl (@kristinpuhl) May 5, 2018
The injustice of lack of access to proper healthcare in poor countries…
You were a 9 yr-old village boy bitten by a rabid dog, arrived comatose in the ER.
I transferred you to the isolation ward ICU. You died in my care.
A full 115 years after invention of anti-rabies immunization.
You led me to pursue public health.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Vik Sahasrabuddhe (@viknci) May 6, 2018
Ten years ago a starry eyed couple set off to open a chain of hospitals.
3 years later they realised they weren’t business people but doctors at heart.
Now along with their one hospital, they support education of 300 kids and healthcare needs of 3 villages.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet pic.twitter.com/ecATDvXHIN
— Amit Thadhani (@amitsurg) May 6, 2018
A 3000 bed African hospital ,acute pediatric ward , a very sick boy still able to talk and tell us of wanting to be a fireman , purpura declared the impossibility of that dream . My son is around the age he was. I don’t know why I think of him so often #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— KJFM/Kevin JF Martin (@KJFMartin) May 6, 2018
The heartbreak of prejudice and ignorance…
Early days of AIDS epidemic, when nurses would avoid going into pt rooms. I was off-service intern, paged for a young gay man, blind, alone, calling for his mother. Shut off beeper, held his hand, called him son, he didn’t die alone. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— AttributionIsABear (@plantagious) May 6, 2018
Admitted with AIDS complications, you told me,the intern, how your father hadn’t talked to you since your diagnosis.Your condition worsened quickly +you died on the floor. Your father came up to see you only after you passed.
I saw him cry and you didn’t.#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— John Aquino (@DrJohnAquino) May 6, 2018
This lovely man, dying, hand held by his boyfriend/partner of 34 years, no words exchanged, none needed, love palpable. ‘We need his next of kin’ said doc, they hadn’t been allowed marry. Estranged family arrived, partner pushed out, left out, despite love #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— polly molotov ❤💜💖🧡💙💚 (@NursepollyRgn) May 7, 2018
Stories of the life-saving generosity of organ donation…
#ShareAStoryInOneTweet 11 month old pulled an ancient VCR onto her forehead, shattering the frontal bone and causing a massive bleed w/midline shift.
Her organs live on in six more kids given a new lease on life.
— Patient Need Bipap (@ineedrtSTAT) May 5, 2018
I certified brain dead a very young man and supported his family through it. Their generosity knew no limits and their son saved 7 lives by being an organ donor. 3 weeks later, his dad phoned up asking how they could raise funds for our ICU. I cried. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Vanesa Garnelo (@xanabables) May 6, 2018
And the incredibly inspiring patients who became medical professionals to pay it forward….
2 yo female found unresponsive in a pool. No heartbeat, no respirations. Firemen and then ED physician refused to quit. I woke up & now I have a job I love. Every second is borrowed time. Emergency medicine saved me (still does). ❤#ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Emily PA-C (@emilyinem) May 7, 2018
When you died from cancer at 28, the light went out for me. You were going to change the world with your brilliance. My plans (wife, artist, mother) had to change. We were always a team, so now 11 yrs later I’m a cancer doctor… trying to change the world. #ShareAStoryInOneTweet
— Fumiko Ladd Chino (@fumikochino) May 7, 2018
Editor’s Note: Struggling and feeling hopeless? You are not alone. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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