Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Paging Dr. www
My mom is a doctor, did you know that? No, she never spent a day in medical school, but apparently through the power of Google she has the ability to diagnose and treat disease.
Now we all know that moms have to play doctor occasionally. They are the ones to Bactine and Band-Aid our skinned knees, they are the ones to rub Vick's on our chests and dose us with terrible tasting cough syrup when we had colds and they are the ones who know that three corn dogs and a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl will result in projectile vomiting so they sagely advise against it. So sure, we rely on them for some basic medical advice when we are kids. (Although we did have to consult a more experienced medical authority, namely my grandmother, on occasion.) What Mom could handle medically was limited to minor first aid, comfort and care.
But with the power of the Internet, my mom can now look up whatever symptom or problem that is bothering her and diagnose her illness or injury and prescribe a course of treatment. The problem is that my mother has no medical training, no access to things like say, antibiotics, and oh, yeah, she is frequently incorrect. Let's just all give thanks that she doesn't have access to leeches.
I will admit that I have used the Internet to look up things. Who hasn't thought, "hmm, what is THAT? "and gone to see if they can find it. Some sites like Web MD and the like can actually be quite useful. I frequently check out the side effects of any prescribed medication on the web, because after watching all the TV I know that sometimes the side effects of a medication can be worse than the problem they are trying to fix. (Like the psoriasis medication that has a small risk of "fatal brain disease". Um, no thanks, I'll keep the itchy skin.) But the web doesn't know my temperature, hasn't taken my pulse, read my EKG, seen my family history, nor can even SEE the weird spot on my little toe. So it's a whole lot of poking and hoping for nothing. That pesky headache could be a need for new glasses or a brain tumor, it's kind of hard to know which without say, testing your eyes or having a CT scan.
Most of the problems my mom is 'diagnosing' are little things, like a small wart on her cheek that she would like to have removed but in their infinite wisdom her HMO requires to first be pre-authorized for removal so while she was waiting for the pre-auth to show up she decided to treat at home. Some of the web's suggestions? Treating with tea tree oil or salicylic acid (aspirin) or banana peel, all applied topically. Yes, the web suggested sticking a piece of banana peel to her face. She did not walk around with garbage stuck to her face (thank goodness) but she did try the other suggested treatments. They did shrink the wart but after working initially, the wart has decided to fight back. The problem is that while the pre-authorization came through, she waited so long that she now has to get it authorized all over again.
Now, she did see a doctor originally to make sure it really was a wart and not something more serious (as a cancer survivor, she does pay attention to that sort of thing). And she will see a doctor again, eventually, to have the thing removed. But now she has a little rash. And last night she went on the Internet.....