Visiting Dr Google
Just over a month ago I was taken to hospital by ambulance in the middle of the night. I was in a whole world of pain that I didn’t even know existed. Spending the next 4 days on a morphine drip I was finally discharged home for physio. Unbeknown to me or the physio I had what is called a sequestered L5-S1 disk. The Physio’s exercises sent my back into acute pain again and I ended up sobbing on the sofa unable to find any position that was even tolerably uncomfortable.
I was made aware that a spinal operation existed that could resolve this problem, although at this stage I was completely unaware of the fact that it would be imperative for me if I was to avoid permanent nerve damage in my leg. And so began my first consultation with Dr Google.
I typed in ‘Microdiscectomy’ and was initially relived to find that there were thousands of entries about this particular operation, but just like everything Dr Google will offer you, sweet relief is quickly followed by horrific anxiety…I began by reading the facts about this operation and the statistics of success (80%+). However, unlike a regular Dr who offers you a 10 minute consultation to satisfy your inquisitive mind, Dr Google’s surgery is open 24/7/365.
I was not necessarily helped by my family of medics and Physio’s who immediately protested against the necessity of surgery for what we all had assumed was a simple disk herniation. And so I wandered into the deeper levels of Dr Google’s advice, particularly the medical forums where people who were recovering from a ‘microdiscectomy’ posted their thoughts and views.
Whilst my rational mind was fully aware that people with successful surgery don’t hang around in forums for spinal recovery, my anxious mind was totally overwhelmed by hundreds of accounts of surgical disaster…SCAR TISSUE, PARALYSIS, INFECTION, RE-HERNEATION and CHRONIC PAIN. Having been convinced that surgery was not choice I would be making any time soon I was returned to hospital where a very conservative neuro-surgeon said, “Sorry but there is nothing we can do here apart from surgery and we need to do it imminently if we are going to avoid serious future complication.”
Within 4 days I was groggily waking up from my anaesthetic, miraculously free of the excruciating pain that had been my companion for the previous month. Yet, whilst I was so thankful to God, for incredible protection and provision through this operation, Dr Google had also sowed some serious doubts in my mind.
Spinal surgery, like a number of operations and even mental health diagnosis are not simple trajectory to recovery. They require effort, patience, maintenance and courage. You don’t just get better all in one go. For me, whilst the pain of sciatic camps had subsided, numbness, odd pains and tingles took their place.
The trouble with Dr Google is that he has already laid the foundations of doubt in your mind, trying to find further reassurance from him is a futile exercise. Whenever you search for an encouragement that your symptoms will resolve, your will follow the threat to a message of complete desolation. Don’t get me wrong, the internet has its place in diagnostics and recovery support, but it is not the answer to all of your problems. I am still very early on in my spinal recovery and still filled with doubt and fear. Yet in my moments of panic, I refuse let my heart be crushed by another peruse of the horror boards. I am God’s child and my recovery is ultimately in God’s hands. I know that I can cope ‘with all things through Him who gives me strength.’ (Phil 4:13-inference added).
Here are my top tips for a consultation to Dr Google:
1) Try to focus your search on reputable and specific sites that give you a professional medical opinion (not personal opinion) like NHS.UK
2) Always remember that the vast majority of people in chat rooms are looking for help or reassurance because of complications with their illness, not because they want to brag about their recovery.
3) If you do want to hear other peoples testimonies about recovery it is better to search for a ‘recovery from…” on YouTube.com – you are far more likely to get an honest and balanced opinion from someone you can see.
4) Impose your own limits of your Dr Google consultation. Your recovery will not be achieved by reading other peoples problems on the internet.
5) When you feel desperate for reassurance, spend some time in prayer and be reminded that God loves you is with you. He has plans for your life and will even use this adversity for your blessing.