Being diagnosed as Type-1 Diabetic at the tender age of 4, I’ve had the benefit and burden of surviving my childhood with a plethora of different doctors, specialists and all-around know-it-alls who love the sound of their own voices and providing unsolicited opinions. But i would be lying if I said that I didn’t owe my survival through said childhood as a result of those medical professionals. During my childhood, my parents lacked the education, resources and information to provide the level of care that was required to help a small child survive Type-1 Diabetes. I mean, they did the best they could with what they had. But there’s no doubt I’d be dead by now if not for the care and advice from the many doctors I’ve had over the years.
But one thing that’s grated on my nerves in recent decades, is the use and aversion to Dr. Google. Y’all know Dr. Google, right? It’s a pretty common practice that people have where they look up their symptoms online and make clinical decisions for their health based on what they’ve found. I don’t need to tell you that this can be an extremely dangerous practice and I certainly don’t recommend it. That being said, there’s a growing number of reputable, peer-reviewed sites that can lend some invaluable information when the situation doesn’t allow for an 8-hour hospital visit or a doctor’s office visit that would likely only be scheduled months down the road.
Such sites can include some of my favourites like WebMD, Healthline.com and the Mayo Clinic’s website. One good example of this is when my wife successfully identified our son’s tendency to soil himself as Encopresis, a condition in children where bowel movements are painful so they hold it in to avoid said pain, resulting in clogged fecal matter that needs to be softened and passed through increased fiber and water intake. (Notice that I used the Mayo Clinic’s page to define Encopresis)
We didn’t just blindly accept the condition as what was happening but the information we gained gave us the ability to ask Nathan the right questions and, as a result, lead to an at-home treatment the ultimately cured the condition. Otherwise, we might have been looking at doctors’ appointments, tests, invasive probes and attempted prescriptions over days and perhaps weeks, for a simple condition my wife was able to identify in one afternoon of reasonable and proper research.
But most doctors despise this practice and not only frown on it but will directly berate patients when they hear that they’ve “checked online” in relation to something medical. One good example comes to mind from the early 2000’s when I was totally and completely exhausted, regardless of sleep. I was always dizzy, had bad headaches and my body and joints ached constantly. Although the internet wasn’t quite what it is now, I was able to research some information and found a condition referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Based on my symptoms and the possible causes of this condition, it was recommended I see a doctor. Which I did. Then I explained. And spent the next twenty minutes being lectured on the fact that HE was the doctor and HE’d decide what my diagnosis is.
In a way, I get it. Doctors and medical professionals spend years, huge amounts of money as well as personal commitment and sacrifice to become the professionals that they are. I can understand that it would come as a slap in the face to have Joe Everyday walk into your office and tell YOU what the diagnosis is, before you’ve even had a chance to examine them. It would be like a white belt starting at my dojo and trying to tell ME how to punch or kick because they saw Van Damme do it differently.
The problem is that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome usually passes within a few months and can occur without warning or reason. There are risk factors and possible reasons, but nothing proven. I was basically ignored and sent home with the recommendation to “get some sleep,” despite my explanation that sleep wasn’t rejuvenating me. And there lies the issue: hospital and clinic wait times have just as much effect on the medical staff as they do on the patients. Doctors often double book and have to hustle patients through as quickly as they can, without having proper time to evaluate and diagnose what may be wrong.
On the flip side of things, we have those peer-reviewed sites I mentioned. You know, the ones written by doctors then reviewed and confirmed by other doctors? It’s not a good thing when a patient assumes to KNOW what’s wrong based on a few web searches. But by the same token, it’s also wrong for a doctor to dismiss a patients questions and concerns BECAUSE their information originated from the internet. After all, it’s fuckin’ 2021, people! I’ve heard multiple responses from doctors including, but not limited to:
- “Would you like to be the doctor or would you like to let me do my job…?”
- “Oh, you checked online?! I guess you have all the answers, then…”
- “People need to stop risking their health by depending on the internet!”
- “I’ll decide on that, thank you very much!” (usually before they’ve even heard my concerns)
There are many more, but online everything is the way of the world. Although skilled and likely cranky due to debt, doctors need to understand that provided information mixed with the patients genuine concerns shouldn’t be dismissed or taken lightly. After all, if you could diagnose and heal a patient in days using shared information rather than weeks, wouldn’t that be a good thing? Work smarter not harder, right?
I’ve been pretty lucky that such encounters have usually been the result of clinic or on-call doctors and not my usual family practitioners or specialists. But if you choose to use the world’s information to help in your medical care, be prepared to stand your ground and deal with some of the more judgmental and touchy doctors that are out there. This shouldn’t discourage you from doing research and looking at what may be causing a particular ailment, so long as you use common sense and call 911 if you’re bleeding or are suffering an immediate emergency. The internet can only do so much… ☯