Let’s give credit to our nurses who see some of the weirdest conditions, some of them hard for most people to fathom, and still treat their patients with respect, compassion, and a healthy sense of humor. Read on for some of the strangest things nurses are likely to see on the job.
cc licensed flickr photo shared by Pink Sherbet Photography
Foreign Objects in the Stomach
When it comes to foreign objects in the stomach, most people think of toddlers swallowing coins. Actually, there is no limit to the strange objects nurses have come across in adult patients’ stomachs. Take, for instance, a case of an 18-year-old woman who in 2007 came to the hospital complaining of abdomen pain and weight loss. It turns out the woman had a condition called trichophagia, which compelled her to consume her own hair. Doctors removed a 10-pound hairball from her stomach—a mass so large it took up nearly all the space in her stomach and had to be taken out in surgery. That’s certainly one of the oddest cases, but foreign bodies in the body are nothing uncommon. Prisoners are known to swallow objects, such as batteries and mattress springs, to earn some vacation time away from their cell.
Intersex (formerly called hermaphroditism) seems so exotic and controversial that it would be confined to sensational TV shows or tabloid articles. Unfortunately, that perception has contributed to a sense of shame and secrecy surrounding intersex. In truth, these varied conditions in which a person is born with sexually ambiguous anatomy are more common than people think. According to the Intersex Society of North America, one to two in 1,000 births receive surgery to “normalize” their genital appearance, and one in 100 births have bodies that differ from “standard” male or female. Some people are born without noticeable differences in genitalia but varied XX and XY chromosomes. Others are born with “in-between” reproductive organs.
What could be causing scores of young people to develop blisters, peeling, and calluses on the pads of their thumbs? PlayStation Thumb became an epidemic in the 1990s with the boom of the video game console, and cases of Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI, continue among teenagers and young adults with alarming regularity. It turns out obesity is not the only risk of excessive gaming. RSIs such as PlayStation Thumb can lead to damage of the hand tendons, ligaments, and nerves.
With obesity a growing problem in the West, so is abdominal pannus, or a fatty flap of tissue hanging down from the abdomen. Itchy yeast infections are an inherent problem of this condition, but so are cases of strange objects getting stuck under the fold of skin. With one morbidly obese man, a suspected skin infection causing a funky odor turned out to be a turkey sandwich lodged under the pannus. A female patient had maggots living in the moist, irritated folds of her skin. To avoid further complications from gangrene and diabetes, keeping the pannus dry and using antifungal medications is essential.
As if getting old were not challenging enough, elderly patients both male and female frequently come into the hospital with sagging rectums. Women can also experience uterine prolapse. What happens in both conditions is the ligaments weaken from years of straining to have bowel movements. While patients are understandably alarmed to find their insides hanging out of their bodies, prolapse is a common and treatable condition. Staying hydrated and performing Kegel exercises can also prevent it.
If these cases prove anything, nursing’s not for the faint of heart!
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Betsy Wofford is an ER nurse and guest author at Accelerated Nursing, a site with information on how to quickly earn a nursing degree.