I have some explaining to do.
Because I’m doing it as if I’m on autopilot.
In fact, I do it as automatically as I breathe in and out sixteen times per minute.
I am trickling out medical advice. Maybe even oozing.
What is the biggest difference between Dr. Seuss and me, besides fame, fortune and a body of work that transcends time? I have a degree. And it is not even a degree in philosophy like Dr. Seuss was gunning for, mine is an actual M.D.
So if I got the papers, what’s the problem with me giving advice? Well, for the love of all that is good, WebMD, the Hippocrates of the Interwebz, disclaims that it gives medical advice. This is at the bottom of the page:
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Now those leeches you ordered off of Amazon don’t seem like such a good idea, do they? You still have time to cancel your order and to get thineself to a real physician. Go, I’ll be here when you get back.
So even WebMD admits it is just spewing information. I literally cringe every time someone says, ‘I read on WebMD…,” because you know he went in looking for the symptoms for strep throat and came out thinking he has leprosy. But I know that unless he was French kissing armadillos, he’s probably okay. WebMD does not give that brand of reassurance. No sir.
Now I’m not saying the information dispensed on WebMD is false or faulty. What I have seen has been true, if not slightly off topic from the original search query, such as, “How the hell does my friend now think she needs uterine ablation when she was looking for birth control options?”
What gets in my craw about WebMD is twofold:
1. I can’t really find who is writing these articles. I like to know the sources of my information because I’m weirdly scientific and logical that way. Or distrustful, you choose.
2. It is as if the “Symptom Checker” algorithms are powered by deranged monkeys set on dominating the world, one neurosis at a time.
So in case you are not picking up on the vibe of my disdain, it needs to be clear that I want to be better than WebMD. No wait, I know I’m better than WebMD because if you tweet to me about a bladder infection, I’m not going to suggest schistosomiasis, unless of course you have just been skinny dipping in the Nile.
So how to prove myself to you? How do you know I’m thinking about you and not eating a banana while looking up your condition on Wikipedia? In real life, my physician reveal unfolds naturally, one morsel of information at a time, with you discovering I am a competent and thoughtful person on your own. My actions speak louder than my words. But we don’t have that luxury here. So brace yourself for the awkward, because I’m just going to throw my C.V. out there. Please, please, know this would NEVER go down like this in real life. I swear. I just have it tattooed on the bottom of my foot to show my closest friends and save time. It does make pedicures interesting and informative, though.
So in lieu of the natural ebb and flow of conversation, here goes: High School through College- Valedictorian/MENSA scholar/Chancellor Scholar at the University of Maryland (I got into Ivy League, but went with the total free ride)/B.S. cum laude in Microbiology/Phi Beta Kappa.
I attended the University of Maryland at Baltimore because of financial and geographical restrictions. I honestly don’t remember what my class rank was, except I was in the upper half, but definitely not in the top ten. Which brings me to one of my favorite doctor jokes:
What do you call the student that graduates at the bottom of his medical school class? Answer: Doctor.
Let that one sink in for a moment. Yeah. We weren’t all competent. There were certain classmates I would have awakened from a coma to avoid because killer SAT scores and dumbass can quite cozily reside in the same person.
I earned the Robley Dunglison Award for Excellence in Preventive Medicine. I could have also graduated with honors in Embryology, had I not blown off the 1,000 word paper I could have sneezed out in ten minutes, in order to concentrate more fully on the planning of my wedding after my first year. That in the literary biz is known as foreshadowing, ladies and gentlemen; if only I had read the Cliff Notes to realize it. I went on to match in OB/Gyn at the University of Maryland.
I only share this with you to give you the background I crave to know about the phantom writers on WebMD. What truly seals the deal on my worth are my stories. Any one of these could be a complete story in and of itself, but I’ll just give you the “status update” versions.
- In medical school, I got to be first surgeon on an ascending aortic aneurysm repair. This was a big deal. I was THE surgeon. My attending let me do this because the woman was a heroin addict and he was a bit of a judgmental soul. Also, I studied my socks off and could recite the surgery step by step before we stepped into the O.R.
- I’ve touched every organ in the human body, dead and alive. This is my kids’ favorite.
- My first lumbar puncture (spinal tap) was on a 3 month old baby. I sweated puddles into my clogs on that one.
- In one year of residency, I delivered over 200 babies. One was in a hallway.
For my first laparoscopic surgery, right as I was
harpooningexpertly inserting the trocar through the patient’s navel, my chief resident gave this bit of helpful advice: “Only use enough force to pop through the fascia. If it starts pulsing you’ve gone too far and you’re in the aorta. Don’t pull it out because the patient will bleed to death before we can call vascular.” Doctors are hilarious. Once again, puddle of sweat in my shoes.
- Why yes, I have removed bizarre foreign objects from vaginas. PSA: vaginas are about 3 inches long; there is nothing you can’t get out yourself.
A pregnant woman with no prenatal care decided that 3am was the optimal time to seek attention in the ER for her bum tooth. There are no dentists in the ER at 3am, they are smart. I refused to give her narcotics because I wanted her to come to the OB clinic for care, but offered her a nerve block because I thought she would refuse once she saw the needle. Not only did she let me stick that needle in her mouth, she held the anatomy book for me so I could figure out where to stick it. For real. We don’t do teeth in medical school.
I could go on, but the bottom line is that I quit medicine, it didn’t fire me. While that is definitely a story for another day, I have one more shining quality to share. If I don’t know something, I admit it and then I do a cracker jack job researching the focused answer. No monkeys involved.
I think Coco(13) summed it up nicely the other day. “Mom, you should have come to career day. You’re probably the only stay-at-home-mom-doctor-blogger combo out there.” You know what the weirdest thing about that statement is? I’ve yet to feel justified to call myself a blogger.
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski