March 09, 2006

Paging Dr. Google

As many of you know, Dilbert cartoonist (and blogger) Scott Adams has a dystonia which prevents him from drawing without the aid of a computer.  About a year ago he started having problems speaking in public as well.

None of the remedies prescribed by the doctors seemed to be working, and one day he realized that the voice problems he was experiencing might be tied to his dystonia.  So he asked Dr. Google, who returned the result "Spasmodic Dysphonia", an extremely rare condition resulting in voice changes very similar to what he was experiencing, and to top it off, this condition was more likely to co-occur in people experiencing dystonias.

Here is Scott's account of his search for a doctor who would actually test for the Zebra, even though the entire stable of horses were absent.  With a correct diagnosis he's now able to resume public speaking, even if the treatment is a little grody....

What's interesting about the story isn't merely that the doctors were unwilling to listen, but rather it highlights what could have happened if the patient in question wasn't a famous artist with access to a doctor specializing in his particular disorder.  Imagine the merry-go-round of drugs, tests, and therapies any of us regular joes might have gone through.  Imagine what might have happened if he hadn't had the computer skills to look for what he was experiencing.

Are our doctors willing to go the extra mile?  To sort through every possibility in the differential diagnosis to find the right answer?  To listen carefully when a patient says "These are my symptoms, and it says here that I could have this"?

Kinda makes you think, huh?

Posted by caltechgirl at March 9, 2006 11:36 AM | TrackBack

Funny that I read this just as my professor is apologizing for Britain's health scheme. "Americans wrongly call it socialized medicine" and "it's just not given enough funding".

Posted by: Cardinal Martini at March 9, 2006 11:56 AM

It's been my experience that doctor's seldom listen. I spent three years trying to convince a team of doctor's that I had PCOS. They ruled out everything else first.

Why? Because I wasn't a doctor. I was just a woman who knew her own body. I interview my doctor's very carefully now...and either they let me actively participate in my own care, or I look elsewhere. You are your own best advocate!!

Posted by: Dana at March 9, 2006 02:10 PM

Wow. I'm with Dana... I want to be involved.

Posted by: vw bug at March 9, 2006 04:11 PM

I grew up watching my mum be told that whatever was wrong with her was all in her head when the doctors couldn't figure it out. It wasn't until a few years ago she was finally diagnosed. And gee, it wasn't all in her head. Go figure.

Posted by: Ith at March 10, 2006 11:14 AM