Terrifyingly Easy Ways a Hospital Visit Can Kill You If You’re Not Careful

Most hospital visits are harmless, annual check-ups. Others are more severe and require a long stay or extensive surgery. Either way, you generally are aware of the risk you’re taking entering a hospital based on the injuries you’ve sustained.

However, there are plenty of unknown (and freakishly simple) ways that hospitals prove fatal for everyday patients. These horror stories tell of rare situations where simple mistakes took the lives of patients too soon.

Physician malpractice

Female doctor's hands putting on blue sterilized surgical gloves

It is very possible that your physician can make a mistake. | iStock.com/Bojan89

In extremely horrifying situations, like that of Jesica Santillan, doctors failed to check the compatibility of a transplant before surgery. Santillan died two weeks after receiving the incorrect heart and lungs, the blood type of which did not match hers.

Duke University Medical Center’s chief of pediatric cardiac surgery, Dr. James Jaggers, was alerted five hours into the surgery that Santillan had received type-A organs when she herself had type-O blood. Her body to reject the new heart and lungs, and her system shut down. She received a second transplant with the correct blood type two weeks later, but it was too late.

Anesthesiology accidents

Doctors working on man in ER

Can you imagine waking up during surgery? | DragonImages

Waking up during surgery, or anesthesia awareness, is a horrific, albeit unlikely, possibility during a procedure. Take the case of Sherman Sizemore, who was admitted to Raleigh General Hospital in West Virginia for an exploratory surgery to figure out his lingering abdominal pain. He reportedly experienced anesthesia awareness during the operation and could feel pain and discomfort but was unable to communicate this to the doctors.

Sizemore’s family said that he killed himself as a result of the traumatic experience. While the chances of waking up paralyzed under anesthesia are about 0.2%, they can rise nearly tenfold for higher-risk operations like cardiac surgeries. Anesthesia awareness accounts are also thought to be underreported because of the sheer trauma of it.

Surgical room fire

Tools for surgery

Having to put out a fire during surgery is a lot more common than you think. | iStock.com

A 2003 report relayed that nearly 100 surgical fires occur each year in the U.S. More recent data suggest that this number could be three times higher, but significantly unreported.

A website dedicated to informing patients of surgical fires details information about 36 items in the typical operating room that could explode under certain conditions. According to an agency on the site, “virtually all operating room fires ignite on or in the patient.”

MRI accident

MRI brain scan

Make sure you take off your jewelry if you are getting an MRI. | iStock.com/Movus

If you’ve ever received an MRI scan, you and the technicians in the room are required to remove anything metal like jewelry or belts with buckles. This is because of the powerful magnetic force of an MRI machine. The first MRI fatality occurred in 2001 when a young boy was killed after the magnetic force sent an air canister flying at him.

The machines have made weapons out of chairs, gurneys, and even a loaded gun. Since 2001, hospitals have implemented policies intended to protect patients from metal projectiles. Be wary of hidden things on your body that you wouldn’t expect to interact with the machine’s magnetic force, such as tattoos and nicotine patches.

Tube mix-up

Doctor typing in notes about patient

A tube mix-up can be fatal. | Mike Simons/Getty Images

If you’ve ever had a surgical procedure or an extensive hospital stay, it’s highly likely you’ve been hooked up to a multitude of tubes that each administer a different drug or fluid to your body. Hooking up the wrong wire to the wrong port could potentially seriously affect a sick patient.

Tube-related mistakes include this one The New York Times reported, where IV drips crossed with oxygen tubes and drowned the patient. It’s estimated that 16% of all hospital patients experience tube mix-ups, hundreds of which prove fatal.

Killer bacteria

Hospital bed

Hospitals are a breeding ground for bacteria. | iStock/Getty Images

Hospitals provide an ideal breeding ground for superviruses due to their extreme cleanliness. There’s no way to avoid this — the overabundance of antibiotics and extreme conditions is a superbug factory — so hospitals must do the best they can to battle the risk of killer bacteria infecting patients.

According to an NIH consumer report, “centers for healing have turned into breeding grounds for dangerous — even deadly — infections.” The CDC estimates that 722,000 healthcare-acquired infections occurred in 2011, and about 75,000 of those patients died. The resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, for example, has nearly an 80% mortality rate.

Ventilator-associated pneumonia

Sick man with thermometer in mouth

You can get pneumonia from a ventilator. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

According to CBS News, ventilator-associated pneumonia, VAP, is a concern for patients with breathing problems. While being hooked up to a ventilator or breathing tube can be life-saving, it’s best not to lie flat while utilizing one. Doing so can set the stage for this potentially deadly illness.

According to Peter Provonost, M.D., Ph.D., FCCM, a medical director at Johns Hopkins University, it’s best to be sitting up at least at a 30-degree angle. Doctors should test every day to see whether you still need the breathing tube in the case of less serious illnesses.

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