Web diagnoses can raise heart rate


Ever since I heard the Hostess company was getting creamed by its workers’ union, I’ve been concerned about the longevity of any sort of institution we have in this nation.

I mean, if an 82-year-old company that pumps out processed puff-filled pastries can’t make it in this country, what other American icons are next to go? Baseball? Hot dogs? Apple pie? The “Twilight” film saga?

Seriously though (not really), I got to thinking about how our society would proceed without industries such as the post office or gourmet coffee shops or “American Idol.”

What would I do if I wanted to mail a super-venti blended ice caramel soy doublefrappeskimoccino latte with whipped cream and coconut shavings on top to my favorite raspy voiced teeny bopper wannabe?

What if astronauts went the way of the milkman? Or lawyers? Or auto repairmen? Or doctors?

Luckily, we’d be OK without doctors, I decided. That’s because of this wonderful thing called WebMD—a website rife with medical articles—which is actually what this column is going to be about, despite more than 100 words to the contrary.

Turns out that with Al Gore’s wonderful contraption called the Internet, for which John Kerry won two purple hearts defending and Mitt Romney has binders and binders, we really don’t need the meticulously trained, highly valued men and women whom we spend a $30 co-pay to see maybe twice a year.

(Someday I will stop making fun of unsuccessful presidential hopefuls, but probably not in our lifetimes.)

I’ve found that if I have any sort of symptom—from an unusual bruise to a stake sticking out of my side—all I have to do is search that symptom on Google, and within a fraction of a second the world’s complete documentation of every single cause is at my fingertips.

Then all I have to do is sift through at least the first five results, find the worst possibility and diagnose myself.

I mention this because for the last several days I’ve been suffering from what I’d describe as moderate-to-debilitating neck pain. Yesterday morning I’d finally had enough. So I picked up my phone, bypassed my doctor’s phone number and went straight to my Google app.

I’ve had a high success rate with Internet-generated diagnosis in the past: Several months ago I noticed an annoying, but painless, crinkling sound in the right side of my face when I was chewing gum. After some researching, it turned out I had a rare, chronic condition in which my jaw was misaligned and the padding between the bones was gone and there was nothing medicine could do about it.

But the noise went away a few days later and I didn’t worry about it anymore.

As for my neck, rheumatoid arthritis was a strong candidate until I found an article on meningitis. It asked if the pain intensified when looking downward.

I hadn’t really noticed, but now that I thought about it, yep, sure did!

After adding in the other symptoms of drowsiness and irritability and the fact that it was about the most severe diagnosis I could find—What’s worse than infected blood and your brain and spinal cord being covered in inflamed membranes?—I was convinced. I had it.

Without WebMD, I’d still be walking around stiffly, naively believing I’d simply pinched a nerve in my sleep.

Convincing others of my diagnosis, however, has proven more difficult. Wife Hanna and my mom are both convinced that rubbing some muscle-relaxing lotion into it will help.

I’m skeptical, but at least I still have the cream filling.


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