Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Internet Is Not Your Doctor

I'm already a sad disappointment, but there's no reason that you have to be like me. It's really quite simple: If you see me doing something wrong, then you must do the opposite. A case-in-point is what happened this past weekend. Let me set this up for you: My work week did not end in its usual fashion - last-minute bad news pouncing onto Friday afternoon and bedeviling my weekend psyche. Add to that a weekend with no real planned structure and I was in a very happy place. I looked forward to the weekend and it, apparently, was happy to see me, too.

Now the only possible obstacle on my weekend runway was a minor physical ailment. I spent all day Friday with mild stomach pains - really, just sore muscles - that I attributed to an overzealous visit to the gym the night before. By dinnertime the pains had localized and (slightly) intensified in my lower right abdomen, but I was still under the impression that Age + Exercise = Soreness.

Remember this for it is a key point in the story.

Pains aside, my wife, my son, and I made a trip to local cineplex that evening to take in a showing of Tintin. The movie was quite a lot better than I expected and the theater was completely free of anyone chatting or texting during the movie. This good fortune was tempered by those stomach pains - now growing intense enough that concentrating on Tintin took some doing.

By the time we arrived back home that evening, I was pretty convinced that I was dealing with something more than sore stomach muscles. It was painful to simply walk and breathe. Finding a comfortable sitting position was proving elusive. My happy weekend was becoming compromised so, being a good geek, it was time to consult the Internet.

I'm pretty good at Internet research. When I need answers, I try to find as many different sources as I can, suss out the zeitgeist and, behold, there are my answers. So let me net this out: when the Internet considered my lower right abdominal pain along with a few secondary (imagined?) symptoms, it became all pretty clear that I had appendicitis. And when I say 'pretty clear' I actually mean 'fairly certain'. And, of course, I made sure I understood all of the surgical techniques and recovery details that I would need for the inevitable trip to the hospital.

I did not immediately share the Internet's diagnosis with my wife, offering her only the assurance that I had cramps and they would go away with a Tylenol-3 and a good night's sleep. While the pill took some of the edge off, I still laid sleepless in bed the entire night trying to find a comfortable position while mulling over the idea that someone would have to cut into my guts to remove the pain.

With that much time and worry to consider, the mind fixates. I began to imagine what the coming days had in store. I wondered how many needles I'd get (I hate needles). I wondered who would get to shave the incision area (likely the oldest, scariest nurse they could find). I wondered how many weeks I'd get to miss work while recuperating (2 to 3, says the Internet).

Saturday morning came. I was no better off and a lot more fatigued. The day was one long out-of-focus camp-out in front of the TV - alternating between restless catnaps and reality programming. I ate nothing and drank only water. My wife offered time and time again to take me to a clinic while I resisted (time and time again). I checked and re-checked my medical research. All signs continued to point to the appendix. The Internet was only too happy to determine how long I could stall before the risk of peritonitus was too high (42 to 78 hours from on-set, give or take).

As Saturday morning became afternoon and then evening, I sat in my chair and gave in to the notion that I would need to be cut open - and soon. There was no hiding from it. But the wimp in me decided it would wait until Sunday. I would get up and have my wife drive me somewhere - maybe straight to the hospital. I drifted off into another uneasy catnap while, outside, the skies debated how many grey clouds it needed to match my mood.

By dinnertime Saturday, things changed. A few hours of actual sleep had done something wonderful. I was rested and, miracle of miracles, my lower right abdomen was somewhat less painful! It wasn't the imaginings of a man avoiding the chance to be sliced apart by science. It was actual recovery! As evening turned into nighttime, my stomach ailments all but disappeared. I didn't wish to jinx my luck by saying the Internet had been wrong, but the thought, incomprehensibly, was there in the back of my mind.

Sunday morning brought almost a full recovery, albeit a tender one. I could only think of myself doing some kind of Ebenezer Scrooge panto: flinging open the window and shouting my miracles to first unlucky soul who came along. Since I'm not typically given to such displays, I could only give my wife reassurances and resolve that I would live each day as though it were my last. Starting with Sunday, it would be Me 2.0.

The Internet wasn't done with me yet. Me 2.0 had planned to spend quality time with my PC to do a bit of video editing. My PC, having other plans, decided to chew up a hard drive and swallow all of my in-progress video bits. Back to the Internet, I spent hours chasing rumours and lies about how I could rescue my videos and maybe triage my hard drive. Like phantom appendicitis, all I ended up with was too many lost hours and vague memories of happier times. And suddenly, the weekend, my happy weekend, was dead and gone - buried in scores of URLs and questionable advice from total strangers.

So the Internet is not my Doctor, nor is it yours. But we both know that next time we feel a twinge in our joints, the next time we need to know if a certain hotel is vermin free, the next time we need advice about the important decisions in our lives, the Internet will there waiting for us. And we'll be there, too.


David said...

My mom had the same symptoms and concluded that she had an ulcer. Yay inernet!

Crazylegs said...

I really do feel like an ijjit. Number 1 - I had myself and others convinced I was bound for the O.R. Number 2 - I hurt myself old-man-style at the gym doing fraking PLANKS! Number 3 - I was such a wuss in NOT going to the hospital when I was convinced that's where I needed to go.

Can your mom top that that? Can she?