Sunday, June 14, 2009

DIY – Diagnose It Yourself

The story of Jessica Terry diagnosing her own ailment in AP science class says a lot about how smart Jessica is, but I have to wonder how smart her doctors are. Or are we just a little too reliant on tests that aren’t 100% reliable?

For eight years, Jessica Terry suffered from stomach pain so horrible, it brought her to her knees. The pain, along with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, made her so sick, she lost weight and often had to miss school.

During a science class, Jessica Terry, 18, discovered a tell-tale granuloma in her own pathology slide.

During a science class, Jessica Terry, 18, discovered a tell-tale granuloma in her own pathology slide.

Her doctors, no matter how hard they tried, couldn't figure out the cause of Jessica's abdominal distress.

Here’s the thing. Without any particular expertise or even aptitude for things medical I read that first sentence and thought it sounded like Crohn’s, which was that granuloma proved it to be. I’d never heard of a granuloma. I just have one friend – count ‘em – one – who has Crohn’s and those are her symptoms. By now I know people with all kinds of other gastrointestinal disorders too, but none of the symptoms seem to be exactly the same as Crohn’s, especially over such a long period of time. Seems to me that since Crohn’s is very serious  condition and, if left untreated, it can be fatal they might have wanted to make that leap and see if she responded to treatment. Of course, treatment for that particular disease is nothing to take lightly, so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t have jumped right in. But eight years? Have we gotten to the point in the CYA department where doctors don’t so much diagnose as just test?

I don’t mean to be all cranky about what’s supposed to be a good news kind of story and I have nothing against doctors or the medical profession in general. I’m very grateful for what ours have done for us over the years. It’s just that it seems that if you’re having a side effect that isn’t written about or a symptom that doesn’t produce a test result, sometimes they kind of stop paying attention. I see this happening a lot and I saw it with my mother as she aged. So this is more of a reflection and wondering if things are more this way now that so much testing is available or if it’s nothing new at all.

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  1. I have a friend who might have Crohn's disease...actually, haven't talked to him for a while, so it's probably not a matter of "might" anymore, but with him, as well, it was a long, long ordeal with a lot of different diagnoses. Might a high school kid in science class have saved him a lot of grief?

  2. It might, I guess. My friend almost died from it. After she was diagnosed and treated she had to take long regimens of steroids whenever it acted up until recently. Now they have a new treatment which doesn't have the side effects but it's still a big deal. Infusions at the doctor's office or the hospital at certain intervals. But they don't make her sick and it's kept her well for the last couple of years.