Medical knowledge can give you the edge when it comes to your family’s health. It can also be a curse. Relatives call you for a second opinion after seeing their doctors because their own physician has told them something they really don’t want to hear, like you have to lose weight to “make those knees quit hurting”, quit smoking, exercise more, or something like that. The funny thing is, my family doesn’t want to hear it any more from me either. Another problem is that friends always want free medical advice. Your neighbors want you to evaluate their injuries before heading off to the emergency room. Just the other day my neighbor called me saying it was “an emergency.” I got there and he said that he had fell and got a scalp laceration. He wanted to know if “it really needed an ER visit.” I told him that I could give him a “band-aid” and a “smiley face” but I simply didn’t have a tetanus shot… which he needed.
Strangers, upon learning your profession, give TMI (too much information) right there in the produce isle. I once had a lady lift her shirt at in the grocery store to show me a questionable mole then instantly got angry when I told her that I didn’t know “because I wasn’t a dermatologist.” I frequently get asked medical questions about the illnesses and possible treatments of different people. They want me to contradict the medical advice given by a certified medical professional because they may have not liked the bedside manner of that particular physician.
Many people have strange symptoms and want to know what is wrong. I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. I tell them that practicing medicine and recommending treatment is quite illegal. On the other hand, I see things wrong in my own family and recommend treatment … which it usually always goes totally ignored. My own mom will say, “Are you really sure… I don’t believe that is right. I’ll just go ask your sister, she’s a real doctor.” And I say, “Yes mom, I am absolutely sure that those new shoes caused your blisters… and no mom, Beth is a large animal veterinarian and you’re a little different than a cow or even a horse. Her advice may be what you want to hear, but it won’t make it right.”
Sometimes the curse is your own knowledge. Of course, having too little knowledge is dangerous…consider the patients who Google their disease and come up with crazy diagnoses and crazy treatments. But having too much knowledge can be just as scary. Doctors call that “looking for Zebras in a horse pasture”. Its when someone comes in saying they have some bizarre disease that is only found in a small area of the inner part of outer Mongolia. But they are sure that they have it and there is nothing you can say to convince them otherwise.
Sometimes your own knowledge is be a hindrance when it’s you or your family. I frequently work in orthopedics. My own son crashed his bike and said his arm hurt. After a quick assessment, I told him to walk it off. It wasn’t until the pain continued the next day that I decided to take him in for an x-ray. Guess what… It was broken. Yep, I was in the dog house with my wife, yet again.
So it’s always best to get a second opinion. Even if I’m pretty sure of the problem, I will head off to the Prompt-Care or the “Emergency-clinic” to see a real doctor. Doctors (and nurses) make the worst patients and they should never self diagnose anything. I think I learned my lesson with my heart attack. Nope, it wasn’t simply bad chicken from the Olive Garden. If I live to be a hundred, my wife will never let me live that one down.
Now I always say, you don’t ask a plumber to do re-wire your house or you don’t ask a auto mechanic to fix your computer. So why should medical advice be any different. I’ll give you my best guess when it comes to something that I do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, my surgical background doesn’t come up with standard infectious diseases, dermatology, or everyday pains. So really, on my own personal experience and on my own hard learned lessons about medical issues… here’s my best advice.
My advice is probably not any better than your other neighbor, the banker or the plumber around the corner. I’ll say, if you have a illness or an injury and are hesitant to head off to the emergency room because of the expense… I say go to the local, free standing, “Emergi-clinic.” The price is a lot less and if it is a real certifiable emergency, they will tell you… and they will handle all of the work in getting you transferred to a real hospital based emergency room.