John Phipps: Doctor’s Little Helper

21:26PM Mar 04, 2019
Chrysanthemum

You notice how you never hear the phrase “He was never sick a day in his life” anymore? It’s not because we’re feeble degenerates who wouldn’t last one of the Days of Yore. Well, not entirely. People were tougher then because if they weren’t, they tended not to be people very long, if you get my drift.

Oh sure, people got sick during the Middle Ages (1955 to 1978) about as much as we do now, but sickness was less fashionable then. Everybody was sick to some degree most of the time, so they thought it was normal. They lived without modern medicine to tell them they were mistaken, and they might fall over dead soon, or at least have “flu-like symptoms,” which is worse.

Thank goodness we have an entire industry, indeed the biggest industry in our odd economy, to help us understand how much health we’re not experiencing at any given minute. The foot soldiers of this behemoth industry are, of course, podiatrists. After them are ranks of general practitioners, standing at white-coated attention or drinking coffee outside millions of examination rooms in which chilly patients learn patience. It’s their sturdy determination that should inspire similar dedication in us medical consumers.

That’s why I think it’s past time we upped our game. Dragging our contagious, coughing carcasses to the doctor days after thinking we can outlive our current plague is not enough. With what we’re paying for medical care, we need to put in a little more effort. Luckily, we have the internet.

Imagine the thrill for your medical professional when he or she discovers you’ve done the reading and completed the homework before your appointment. My doctor now routinely asks, “where in the heck did you get that,” when I share my new expertise. Thanks to the internet, my annual checkup is more committee meeting than consultation.

For example, for most problems, I find webmd.com suitable to arm me with enough symptom suggestions and multiple choices for diagnoses. For anything below the waist, however, I rely on mayoclinic.com. Go with a brand name for the important stuff, I say. Occasionally, I’ll run cross checks on hyperchondriac.net and imsickitellyou.biz.

The spirited discussions that ensue between physician and over-informed medical customer are a welcome diversion from the sullen interrogations with random prodding and genial indignities that formerly described our encounters. Sure, they take a little longer as I pull out my phone to show the latest research results from B-list movie star advocacy groups, or even better, a misspelled tweet from some lady in New Zealand who could have the same disorder I suffer, and she cured it with plums soaked in gin.

Best of all, I never feel inarticulate when presenting my complaints. We can talk the medical talk. Throw in some Latin lingo to impress—it’s pronounced just like it sounds.

That’s why drug advertisements are so helpful. We all want to be preternaturally youthful, walking beaches, playing with attractive dogs and surrounded by family members who look like they stepped out of that picture you get with a new frame. Many of us just have the wrong afflictions to join that ideal lifestyle. If a pharmaceutical that starts with “x” or “z” can do that, we need to get our symptoms lined up. And if we’re already taking Zercoxnil, Raztronofral or whatever, the sultry TV or radio recitation of possible side effects can be gentle reminders we’ve felt that, kinda.

While getting your medical education from random websites might have drawbacks, the warmth of the response from your attending professional makes it all worthwhile. It must be gratifying to have patients eager to play doctor’s little helper. Best of all, since I have adopted this do-it-yourself-then-call-a-pro-to-fix-it system, my doctor says she has been charging a special rate for my visits. Wait until Medicare finds out!