Series / Untold Stories of the E.R.

A show on the Discovery Network channels. The show involves dramatic reenactments of cases that have been seen in Emergencies Rooms. Usually the actor portraying the doctor is the doctor from the story. The stories for the most part are real but with some details changed for compression purposes, the patient did not give permission to be used, or the patient could not be found afterwards.


This show provides examples of:

  • Abuse Mistake: As an example of Type A, a boy came in with a undiagnosed mild case of Brittle Bone Disease. The number of old micro-fractures implied abuse to the doctors. The hysterical parents' response to the accusation, up to and including kidnapping the child from the ER, did not help matters.
  • Almighty Janitor: In one episode, a woman came to the ER, unconscious. The doctors couldn't tell what was wrong, and the only other person they could reach who knew her medical history was her husband, who could only speak an uncommon Middle Eastern language. The nearest translator for that language was half an hour away and the woman didn't even have five minutes... cue a janitor saving the day because he just happened to be from the husband's country.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Very common. Most of the time the ER docs try their best to put them back on. One case the man lost his legs after being hit by a train.
  • As Himself: A lot of retired doctors, or doctors working fewer hours come on to tell the stories and reenact them.
  • Ass Shove: One male patient, who actually bribed the doctors not to do any paperwork, had to have a dildo removed from his anus once it got stuck. This is a fairly common story and probably makes up about 1 percent of ER visits.
  • Attention Whore: Anyone with Münchausen syndrome is one of these. They fake medical disorders to gain attention and sympathy.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted hard in some cases. One woman was brutally mauled by a mountain lion. Doctors managed to reconstruct her face, but she cried when they took the bandages off and she saw how bad she looked. They then showed her photos of how she looked before they stitched her up, and she realized that she was lucky to even have a face.
  • Belly Dancer: In the episode "Belly Dancer Mystery", an entertainer in full costume was wheeled into emergency.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Happens a lot, especially when the doctors put their own lives on the line. During the rampage of Damacio Ibarra Torres, one nurse dragged a doctor who was shot in the head into another room to prevent a Coup de Grāce from the gunman. He then went back for a gurney and quickly wheeled the doctor into a trauma bay. After that, a neurosurgeon left the guarded cafeteria so he could then treat the doctor... while the gunman's location was still unknown.
  • Big Heroic Run: One doctor had to run across the ER, jump, and land on the bed on his knees to catch a baby a woman was pushing out fast.
  • Blood Is the New Black: And vomit, urine, feces, alcohol... pretty much any doctor can expect to be showered with bodily fluids that you didn't know existed over the course of his career.
    • A neurosurgeon on call was rushing to the hospital to try to save a man who crashed his motorcycle with no helmet. Along the way he came across another man who did the same thing, so he was delayed trying to help this man until the ambulance arrived so he could then go to the hospital and save both. The other doctors and nurses were stunned as he came running in, in his dress shirt and pants covered in blood.
  • Another fairly graphic example happened in the episode "Drama Mama." The featured doctor was dealing with a combative patient who appeared to have a tension pneumothorax (in layman's terms, a collapsed lung). In actuality he didn't, and when the doctor poked his chest to relieve the pressure, a quite literal fountain of blood squirted everywhere.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: All too often. One woman was cradling the body of her friend who was shot, telling him to Please Wake Up. Paramedics had to tell her they would look at the (obviously) dead friend after they checked her out. Turns out all the blood wasn't just his- some of it was from the two point blank shots to her head.
  • Born Lucky: The one way some of the patients survive.
    • One man fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a chain link fence, which sent one of the fence pipes straight through his head. The doctors had no idea how to treat them: "We don't see these types of injuries in the ER. These types of injuries usually show up in the morgue." After X-ray and CAT scans showed that it had somehow managed to miss every single nerve, vein, and artery in his head, they pulled it out with a team of vascular surgeons standing by in case something went bad. He walked away with nothing more than some mangled flesh and a few broken teeth.
  • Busman's Holiday
    • One neurosurgeon was called in to perform on a motorcycle driver that was not wearing a helmet. On the way to the hospital he stumbled upon another motorcycle driver that crashed without a helmet, so he kept this guy stabilized until the ambulance showed up, covering himself in blood in the meantime.
    • On a cruise ship, a kid slammed his hand in a door so hard that it was barely hanging on by a flap of skin. The sick bay doctor paged the entire ship asking if there were any hand surgeons on board, seriously doubting any sort of response as hand surgeons often travel from hospital to hospital. Five minutes later, three hand surgeons showed up in Hawaiian shirts asking where the patient was.
  • The Coats Are Off: In an unusual case of this, when shooter Damacio Ibarra Torres was shooting any doctor he could find, the doctors all took off their coats to claim they were nurses.
  • Code Silver: Happens every so often.
  • Coughing Up Blood: Sometimes patients come into the ER doing this, for various reasons. For instance, one man who was a landlord accidentally swallowed a thumbtack, which had fallen from the ceiling as his tenant was using them to secure a poster up there.
  • Crazy-Prepared: ER docs have to be. And some patients as well.
    • One mother had her daughter (who were both deaf) wear a bunch of bracelets. On the bracelets, hidden from view, was info about her and other people, including the contact info of nearby relatives and to call 911. This saved the woman's life when she started to flatline repeatedly.
  • Cutting the Knot: Sometimes required due to red tape and paperwork.
    • A patient who desperately needed surgery couldn't be treated at the small clinic where he was diagnosed, but his insurance wouldn't pay for the ambulance service to take him to a bigger hospital. Unable to cut through the red tape to arrange transport for their patient, the doctors hit upon a counter-intuitive solution: they called 911, which the ambulance service is contractually obliged to respond to even when the call comes from a hospital. The bill from the ambulance service went to the hospital, and not the patient.
    • When a hospital was placed in lockdown while under attack by a gunman, A neurosurgeon needed to get to the ER to treat his fellow doctor who was shot in the head. The guard wouldn't let him out, so he left through the kitchen's one-way exit. Note that the gunman hadn't been located, so he could have been shot at any second.
  • Deus ex Machina: Sometimes can save the day.
    • One case had a woman who turns out to be three months pregnant violently hemorrhaging in her uterus. Problem was that the only person who knew her medical history was her husband who only spoke an uncommon middle-eastern language and the nearest translator was 30 minutes away and she did not even have five minutes. However a janitor that work there had immigrated from a country that spoke it.
  • Driven to Suicide: A lot of cases show up in the ER.
    • A medical student who had recently failed his final exams hung himself in his own triage bay- he only survived because he was already in the hospital.
    • One man became so distraught about his wife's death in the ER he planned on doing a Suicide by Cop, by shooting and managing to kill one of the doctors.
  • Ear Ache
    • One woman had a june bug crawl into her ear. The doctor had to squirt a lot of lidocaine into her ear to drown the bug. After 20 minutes, he pulled it out only for it to revive and start to struggle in his forceps.
    • A man stabbed himself in the ear with an ice pick to remove the evil spirits in there.
    • A man was brought in whose only apparent symptom was intermittent shrieking. The doctors were ready to send him up to psych until a nurse discovered a bug gnawing on the inside of his ear.
  • Eye Scream:
    • One man inadvertently poured bleach into his eyes- his wife had put some bleach into a bottle with an eyedropper for treating her athlete's foot.
    • Another man's eyeball had been forced forwards by abnormal pressure within the eye socket, protruding out in front of his eyelids. The ER staff had to improvise a covering from a taped-on paper cup to shield it from light while they waited for a specialist to explain how to safely get it back into place.
  • Flaying Alive: An extremely intoxicated man with torn-up clothes was being treated for numerous gash-wounds. When he leaned over to vomit, his long hair and scalp drooped forward over his face. Turns out he'd gotten his curls caught in the mechanism of a mall escalator, which yanked on them hard enough to deglove most of his skull.
  • From Bad to Worse: Several, of course! In one particular case, a man accidentally punctured a can of spray paint, which got all over his face, so he went to the ER complaining that his eyes were burning. Turns out he was so sensitive to it that his throat started to swell completely shut.
  • Groin Attack: Usually self-inflicted.
    • One patient had taken black market Viagra to surprise his girlfriend for Valentines Day. Problem was it was horse Viagra and he went into the ER after the third day with the erection. The urologist was called as the blood was so clotted it had to be manually drained with surgery.
    • Another patient had this when his girlfriend suggested he stick his penis into a camping stove and she would.... have relations with him on the other side. Needless to say, he got stuck and had to come into the ER with the stove still attached. The stove was thrown away into the
  • From Dressto Dressing: Dra. Candice Myhre, removes her shirt off and uses it as a bandage for a guy who received a huge cut in his leg on the beach.biohazard container.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Some real gushers, either from severed arteries or from body cavities filling up from internal hemorrhaging.
  • Human Popsicle
    • A 24-year-old man was exposed to a subzero temperature for over four hours. His internal temperature was only 74 F (23 C). Since it happened over such a long period of time, his body went into hibernation and shut his brain down, so the oxygen loss did not do as much damage.
    • This was also deliberately invoked for therapeutic hypothermia. After massive heart attacks, some doctors will lower the patient's internal temperature to 89 F (32 C) to slow down the brain and heart enough that they can heal without aggravating the damage.
  • MacGyvering: Sometimes has to be done to save a patient.
    • One patient came in with a large hole in her heart. The doctor temporarily plugged it using two inflated Foley catheters to bide time until the cardiac surgeons got there.
    • A little girl fell into a cactus and covered her stomach and limbs with needles, so the ER team initially tried pulling the needles out one-by-one using tweezers. When the doctor realized this was going to take hours, he got the idea to use bikini wax, recalling an ad he saw earlier. It worked like a charm, and doubles as a Chekhov's Gun, too!
  • Made of Iron: Some of the patients. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect you from long-term damage and side effects.
    • One patient had been stabbed in the heart, with blood pouring into the pericardium/sac around it. By the time he got into the OR, there was over a liter of blood in the sac, and the pressure got too great for his heart to pump anymore. The second they drained it, his heartbeat suddenly went back to normal along with his blood pressure.
    • A doctor was shot in the head by a gunman in the hospital. He came to after 30 seconds wondering what happened. He still was major neurological issues with physical movements and PTSD, but is nonetheless very glad to be alive.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: Done a lot in the ER, usually to keep a patient alive long enough to get them to the actual surgeons. Even the proper medical treatment can be this. One patient's brain was swollen, so the doctors trepanned them to relieve pressure. Meaning they drilled a hole in the patient's skull- not even with an electric drill, but a hand-operated one.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: More like minor injury reveals major underlying condition. One episode had a minor concussion (kid took a baseball to the head while wearing a helmet) turn into a major brain bleed. Turns out he was slowly being poisoned by something in his house that was causing his bones to be weaker then they should be.
  • Oh Crap!: A common trope. Usually when a patient suddenly gets a lot worse, they flatline, or the ER suddenly gets swamped.
    • On Halloween, a guy walked in with an axe in his head complaining of a headache. The doctors, accustomed to fake injuries on Halloween, laughed and put him in another room. One of the doctors played along and "inspected" the wound, and came up with blood on his hand...
    • A rather depressed medical student failed his final exams and hung himself in his triage bay.
  • Older Than They Look: Dr. Jessica Mason, from "Medieval Mayhem," has this problem. She's a full-fledged doctor in her 20s-30s, but most people assume she is much younger. She has actually been accused of being 12-13, and many patients assume she is either a nurse or intern. Dr. Mason can in fact be a Deadpan Snarker to those who make comments.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Recurring trope on the show as sometimes a patient is so critical that the ER doctors have to perform surgery right then and there.
    • One episode featured a med student with a background in biochemistry and pharmacology who ended up delivering a baby- rather, watching in shock while a nurse delivered the baby. A family with the mother in labor walked into the wrong section of the hospital, where the med student was, and the instructor ordered him to help the woman. He had been a resident for 4 days, and didn't even know where the emergency room was.
    • The ER crash team once had to perform a 'splash and slash', meaning they had zero time to do any sort of preparations, save for splashing antiseptic onto the patient and cutting them open.
    • Another case saw an example Open Heart Construction. A guy had stepped in concrete, but by the time he got to the ER it had hardened completely. The doctor had to saw through it in the ER.
    • In an ER during the worst of the Iraq War, the doctors got swamped with casualties. At one point they had to get an E-2 administrator (basically a secretary with a military rank) to keep pressure on a wound.
    • In an inversion, a man brought his beagle who was not breathing and had open wounds to the ER as it was the closest medical facility. The man was so distraught the doctors improvised and saved the day.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A couple of stories are pretty much enactments of actual news stories. The rampage of Damacio Ibarra Torres was told from the perspective of the medical staff treating their colleague who was shot in the head.
  • Terrified of Germs: The young man and his father from "Don't Touch Me!".
  • The Wonka: Some of the doctors, mainly as a way to get through the day. Doctor Christopher Michos made a habit of getting rather eccentric-patterned scrubs.
    • Sean Bush, with his unkempt beard and stringy ponytail, looks like 30-something hipster yet is one of the best venom experts and doctors in the world.
  • Your Head A Splode: Way too often with head trauma. Orthopedic and neurosurgeons try to piece it back together.
    • One woman was saved by this! She took two point blank shots to the head, thankfully to only one hemisphere of her brain. What kills a lot of head trauma patients is that the brain starts to swell against the cranium, which results in fatal hemorrhaging. The fact that her skin was the only thing holding her heavily fractured skull together is what ended up saving her life, as it gave her brain room to swell without too much damage.

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