Mechanics & medicine
A few days ago, I found a receipt showing it had been three years since a momentous change in my
Oooooh, those are exciting words, right? They don’t seem very exciting in retrospect. They’re matter of fact. All that changed was my finding a book. One little book.
I’d spent six months trying to find a doctor who could help me understand what was suddenly wrong with me, and how to fix it. My search was fruitless. And then, then I found a book talking about how changing my diet could change everything. I was only eating eight foods at that point, so that the book’s direction to remove one of those–rice–didn’t seem like it could do much, but it changed everything for me.
Grains were a problem. Meat was not. Fat was not. Most vegetables were not.
I didn’t have a diagnosis, but I had (mostly) my health … and didn’t care much
about a diagnosis, as long as I had that.
About a year ago, I realized I was having a problem with certain sets of foods. They didn’t seem at all related, until I googled them and found a commonality.
I forgot about that commonality until a few days ago, when I had terrible reactions to two seemingly unrelated foods and went, “Oh, wait, in all the hubbub, I forgot this from last year!”
I found that there was an underlying problem–one with which I’d been diagnosed, right before I got pregnant with Littler J and lost track of little things like “health problems”–that increased the prevalence of all the other problems I was experiencing. I breathed a sigh of relief for the internet, and for the availability of information that it entails.
My little brother’s doctors couldn’t diagnose his disorder. My mom diagnosed it by poring through books at our local library. My brother’s doctors only then confirmed it.
Thanks to the internet, I can more quickly find answers without having to hope I find a doctor capable of actually diagnosing them.
I meet a lot of folks today who are struggling to find diagnoses for their ailments.
I’m torn about how to say they shouldn’t give up hope on their doctors, but shouldn’t wait for them, either.
(“Why should some research saying 3% more of people in a test sample of 800 responded one one way than another be determinative for your own body, which was not represented in that research?” I want to cry.)
Today, I got a text message from a friend that made me shake my head and think, “Aw, man, you’re still relying on doctors to resolve your problems, aren’t you? Too bad, man, too bad.”
It’s not that I blame doctors. I might have, before I read Victo Dolore‘s thoughts about trying to help heal her patients, but I don’t anymore.
It’s just that I think medicine, like most things practiced by humans, is slow-moving. Doctors who only practice what they read from stuffy established medical journals will be missing heaps of new evidence amassed elsewhere, to the detriment of their patients who care less about “completely authenticated science” than “just feeling a little bit better, for the love of God.”
Just fewer than three years ago, I posted the below about mechanics and medicine. I stand by it today.
I was just reading a book Nick left me on how doctors think, and how their errors in framing problems can be lethal to their patients. As I was reading this, I got a call from a mechanic. He’s the fourth mechanic to look at my car in a couple of months about a terrible smell on the lefthand side of my car, and one that’s much, much worse the longer the car’s been undriven.
My dialogue with the last mechanic went like this:
HIM: There’s no leaking fluids.
ME: That’s great. What else could cause a terrible burning smell?
HIM: Nothing I can think of. Your car looks great. I don’t smell anything.
ME: Pretend you did. What might be its source?
HIM: Look, your car looks great. My tests show it.
ME: I’ll be sure to take heart in that if my car fails while I’m driving 65 with my son in tow.
My dialogue with this mechanic went more like this:
HIM: Your breaks look great. In fact, everything looks great. I can’t believe your car has 100,000 miles on it.
ME: AAAARGH. If it’s not my breaks, what is?
HIM: I’m not sure. Let’s talk about this more. You smell it more on the left side, and most when you’re just starting your car after it’s been off a while, huh?
ME: Yeah, that’s about right.
HIM: It could be the cat, or the catalyst. You might want to take it to a smog check station and have them check exhaust output. But wait, let me look at the exhaust pipe while we’re talking.
ME: Cool, thanks.
HIM: Check it out. There’s plastic remnants in here. Sometimes, not too often, a bag will be floating down the freeway and land in an exhaust pipe. It’s probably been burning off for a couple of months and now it’s almost gone. Maybe another few days or a week, and it’s totally gone.
The facts of the noxious odor and its source didn’t change. The only thing that changed was the mechanic’s willingness to explore alternatives, and to pursue them. To truly address a concern rather than wave if off based on limited diagnostics. It felt fortuitous, to be reading about optimal problem resolution and then see an example of it. And it made me think it’s all the more important to walk away from doctors like the first mechanic above, and find ones more like the second. The results are worth it.