Friday, August 28, 2009

Books, Self-Diagnoses, and WebMD

My parents' house is loaded with books. I think they have more than some branches of the Louisville Free Public Library. This was a great resource for me, as an only child whose neighbor friends mostly liked to play with G.I. Joes. My parents had all kinds of books: classic great novels, every Dick Francis mystery ever, a World Book Encyclopedia from 1952 (great for school reports), multiple dictionaries, all kinds of Civil War tomes, and loads of other non-fiction.

My favorite book of them all was: The American Medical Association Family Guide I read that thing cover-to-cover probably ten times, and another fifty times in the choose-your-own-adventure style of chapter reading.

My favorite part was the flow chart self-diagnosis section. When I was a mere seven years old, I diagnosed myself with both meningitis (irritable, drowsy, with a headache) and typhoid fever (abdominal pain. chills, thirst). By age nine, I had all the symptoms of throat cancer (unxplainable persistent sore throat). Somehow I still managed to only ever go to the doctor once a year for my check-up, and he never found any consumption. Really, as long as I was armed with information from the medical book, I felt I had all my diseases under control. No need for the doctor. (Though, as it turns out, I was just a healthy child with an over-active imagination. Funny how the flow charts never diagnose "imagination.")

Last night, my elbow hurt. I've been doing loads of manual labor, and I thought I had a spider bite. Oh how I longed for that AMA Guide at 2am as I was trying to sleep with my arm elevated to avoid having the venom spread through my bloodstream. Thankfully, nowadays, everyone has a virtual hypochondriac's guidebook available to them: Google!

I didn't think it was Black Widow or a Brown Recluse because it didn't look like the pictures. (Don't click on that link if you are queasy.) But it was red, swollen, numb, and shaped like a big circle right around my elbow.

This morning it hurt a lot, but my insurance being horrible I didn't want to go to the Immediate Care Center. So I posted on Facebook, asking for holistic advice. Mom saw my Facebook status about spider bites and insisted I go with her to her already-scheduled doctor's appointment. I obliged. The doctor answered all mom's questions, and then mom asked her if my elbow bite required immediate attention.

The doctor looked at my elbow, said, "Oh my," and immediately wrote me a prescription. Not a spider bite, but a bad elbow infection. "You'd better pray that it doesn't spread."

An elbow infection?! Who gets an elbow infection? According to Google, the drummer from Jane's Addiction does, so maybe it's a rock star thing. Anyway, it hurts, and I am useless. Typing one-handed is giving me a headache too, so I'm out of here.

Hmpf, and here I thought it was my over-active imagination. Google is making freak out about possible amputation... maybe there's something about it in the 1952 World Book.

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