I saw my dentist last week. Leslie Dickinson is an excellent dentist who also happens to be a friend going back to Kindergarten. She’s from the WAY BACK file. We were chatting after she was done inspecting my molars, and because we are 800 years old, began comparing ailments. In the six months since my last checkup, she got some crazy adult form of a kid ailment that her doctor told her didn’t exist, until she tested positive for it. One round of antibiotics later, all was well. I told her I tested negative for “cat scratch fever,” (no really, I did) before I diagnosed myself with Dutch Elm Disease. And I’m told by older women things just get worse from here. So we’ve got that going for us.
We were having and good laugh about the whole thing when she mentioned the worst thing to have to say to a doctor, “This is gonna sound crazy, but…” Just so you know, these are words that bring chills to OBGyns and Pediatricians because they are almost always accompanied with a WebMD printout. Often, nothing following the “sound crazy” revelation is, well, sane. I have a suspicion that may change for the better.
She said her son was diagnosed with cold-induced urticaria. That means he’s allergic to cold temperatures. Seriously, he gets hives and itches when he’s cold. Go ahead and take that to your allergist, “This is gonna sound crazy, but I think he’s allergic to… cold.” Go on and top it off with, “I diagnosed him through Facebook.” But you know the really crazy part: Facebook was right. He is. It’s a rare, but real condition and she figured it out through some friends on a social network.
A year ago I would have thought getting a diagnosis via social media was nuts. But then it happened to me too, except on Twitter. My friend Lisa Fischer called me one day, after I’d experienced months of doctor visits and frustration with my health. She said, “I’m 12 years from a medical degree, but I’ve been following you on Twitter and I think I know what’s wrong with you. I think your thyroid is all messed up.” She suggested I go to either my doctor, or hers if I wanted, and ask for a particular test. At that point, I would have stood on my head if someone made a convincing argument it would make me feel better. I got the test. She was right. I have a thyroid problem that a traditional test didn’t pick up. She’d had a similar issue several years ago. I’ve been on meds for several months and am so much better.
Here’s my theory, based on little other than my experience and tiny knowledge of social history: Women used to have sewing circles and mission groups and Mommy classes. Because more women worked in the home, they had to create actual, physical social networks to ward off the isolation of being at home with no adults to talk to. As more women have become professionals outside the home, these physical networks and the passage of knowledge and experience through them has dissolved. Online social networks have to some extent replaced the former ones. Like previous ones, information and help can be passed along quickly and easily. I know tons of women who have gotten decorating tips, potty training advice, health counsel or clothing recommendations through social networks. Certainly, the rules of real life still apply when expert opinions are being offered: consider the source. There is always some fool who thinks everyone has a tape worm. But my goodness, what great sources are now available by simply picking up your smart phone.
Lisa jokes her husband thinks she’s on a mission to save thyroids everywhere. I’m beyond grateful she saved mine. It’s a minor medical issue that can have a huge impact on your life. I’m so grateful to her for reaching out to me based on my Twitter complaining. And this is gonna sound crazy, but I’m so thankful for things like Facebook and Twitter that have the power to connect us all. May we all use this force for good.