The Most Disgusting Thing in the ER…read the comments!!

Resurrecting one of our popular posts (and most disgusting/gross) from the archives. Nothing’s changed, nurses face some of the grosses, weirdest, and seemingly normal functions of humanity.

What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve had to do / seen in your travels as a nurse?

Some interesting and disgusting submissions, thanks….I think. A recent submission from a nurse working ICU. — We had a patient who had an undiagnosed mental illness on top of the reason why he was admitted to ICU. We were doing routine visits to his room when we noticed the patient was coughing due to obstruction(s). As he was hacking up out comes numerous scabs from the sores on this body. Well if that wasn’t enough, he sat in the bed as he, and we, looked at his discharge in his hand, and instead of inquiring where he could dispose of his….sores….he promptly slurped them back into his mouth and ate them…. Yes, I’ve seen many things, but that made us yell out, “come on man!”


  1. Once upon a time there was an old woman with diabetic neuropathy in her feet (among maaaany other health issues). She was a tough matriarchal black lady, who ruled the roost from her wheelchair.

    She had a live-in caregiver, charged with keeping her fed and clean and healthy. Up until the feet. This woman’s feet were in such constant pain, that she refused to have them touched. Even to take her socks off.

    She wore the same pair of socks for THREE MONTHS. With *NO ONE* allowed to check her feet over.

    So she comes to our hospital for whatever reason, and we have to do our head-to-toe skin check. It’s part good care, part CYA in case they come in with skin breakdown. We take pictures of anything “interesting.”

    We have her in bed, and go to take her socks off. She start hollering and wailing in a very over-the-top manner, so we give her some pain medicine. Some very good pain medicine.

    The socks come off, and everyone in the room is hushed as we try to figure out what we’re seeing.

    Half her toes are raw and red and stuck together with fungus. Her toes are curled under from disuse, with some of the longest nails I’ve ever seen, curving in and embedding themselves in the soles of her feet. Which are thick with dead skin cells that haven’t been washed off in ages.

    There are bits of broken-off toenail scattered around, stuck in the bottoms of her feet as well, looking like barnacles on a whale.

    And you don’t even want to think about the smell.

    We cleared the room quickly to “gather cleaning supplies” and spent the next 30 minutes carefully turning her feet back into feet. All the while she’s whining and moaning, but you can tell it’s mostly an act, since her volume increases any time someone walks past the room.

    I hope to god I never see anything like that again.


  2. Being a labor and delivery nurse, some of the most disguising things I saw came into the unit usually in a Tupperware container-like really funky mucous plugs. In Tupperware no less—I can not eat anything that was in a Tupperware container, now Rubbermaid that’s another story.
    But, one story is the woman in full hardcore labor with the worst case of pinworms I have ever seen, her entire house was infected. While, she was pushing and everything was bulging, she had the most horrible bowel movement with a billion pinworms in it! Oh, it was lovely, still makes my skin crawl to this day and it’s been years since that happened.


  3. The grossest thing I’ve ever dealt with was probably the HUGE pus-filled abscess covering the perineum on a very overweight woman. And I love pustulent abscesses and watching them runnnnnnn……but this one I could have put my fist into…..and lets not talk about the smell.


  4. Purple, that story merely outlines the care that nurses have 😀

    Onion, that’s a horror film….or an experience only found in urban legends.

    Mojito, perineum was a funny word till I read…..


  5. One of the last times I almost vomited on one of my patients was when I was putting an NG tube in a very sick lady with a small bowel obstruction. As the tube was going down, she began projectile vomiting what appeared to be, and smelled like, liquid feces. I have seen a lot of gross things over the years but this one left me staggering for a moment to regain my composure. Luckily she was a trooper and understanding. A good reminder too of how important wearing appropriate PPE is!

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