Hospital Staffers Share Captivating Stories Of Life And Death On Twitter

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staffers rarely get the chance to share the intense and emotional stories they encounter while on the clock.

(And no, dramatic TV series like Grey’s Anatomy and ER don’t count.) Just last month, however, health care professionals began using the Twitter hashtag #ShareAStoryInOneTweet to do exactly that — and their accounts are now going viral.

Esther Choo, MD, MPH, an associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, is the brains behind the popular hashtag. She inspired the online movement in early May by posting a tweet about saving a man’s life.

“When I first met B, he’d been dead for 20 min,” Esther’s tweeted. “We got him back, inexplicably.”

If there was any doubt in your mind that health care professionals have ridiculously difficult and important jobs, this hashtag will take care of it…

Posted on Esther’s acount on May 4, this is the tweet that started it all. It’s since been liked nearly 2,000 times.

Many of the stories shared using Esther’s hashtag have happy endings: “Teenage girl was in a coma for 6 weeks,” shared Dr. Kate Wallis. “I convinced her mother that ther [sic] ovary needed to be removed, on a hunch that a cyst was secreting antibodies attacking her brain. I was right.”

A patient of Dr. Rick MacDonald, a pediatrician, gifted him a clock as a thank you for saving his life more than a decade ago.

Dr. John Morrison, an internist and pediatrician, revealed that a patient once called him “the most influential man in my life, second to my father.”

But some of the stories people shared in response to Esther’s tweet didn’t end on such high notes: “The nurse asks me to pronounce you [dead]. I cry through every word,” wrote Lynn Fiellin, MD, who watched a breast cancer patient die 22 hours into the first day of Lynn’s internship.

This doctor had to tell an ovarian cancer patient’s husband that she passed while her family was on a break: “His face forever haunts me.”

Eventually, emergency responders began chiming in, too. One British police officer shared that he once tried and failed to save a teenager from a suicide attempt: “I still think about you [the victim],” he wrote.

One nurse-in-training, Ella, revealed that the health practitioners who saved her inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. Esther replied directly to her tweet, writing, “Thank you for sharing. You will have a special empathy for your colleagues and patients.”

Virtually all of the stories shared using #ShareAStoryInOneTweet are filled with intense emotion.

“Gyn Onc attending screamed at me for missing meeting,” wrote one doctor. “Didn’t tell him that you, dying of cervical cancer, had laid your head in my lap while rounding, I stroked your head as you told me about the sons you were leaving behind. You taught me compassion.”

Sometimes, doctors have been able to achieve the seemingly impossible — like this physiatry consultant whose patient survived a gunshot wound to the head.

Another emergency responder shared this story: “I was 1st on scene at [a road traffic collision], the rain was torrential as you lay on the road, I worked tirelessly to save you as your loved ones watched on, I lay cream roses where you left this world & drive there every day, I did my best, I can’t forget.”

Nurses and other health attendants often play special roles in their patients’ lives: “She took her last breath holding my hand,” wrote Savannah, now a registered nurse. “The nurse told me she had been holding on for me.”

Current medical students also got in on the hashtag, including Eman, a student at Hawler Medical University, who shared this story.

If nothing else, these tweets have served to inspire new and future health care professionals.

“It’s my first year as a doctor and all these stories are making me more headstrong,” one student wrote. “Later on we become someone’s last words, someone’s last hope.”