So Melanie came downstairs on Saturday morning and complained she had itchy skin bumps on her legs and arms that had kept her from sleeping well. This wasn't good for two reasons:
(1) You never want your child to experience something like that, and
(2) It brought about the seldom-seen-yet-no-less-annoying phenomenon I call "Scott Tennant, M.D."
I never attended medical school, nor do I have any sort of formal medical training. Yet I consider myself perfectly qualified to diagnose and treat a variety of ailments for the same reason millions of other Americans do: We have Internet access.
I imagine doctors must hate the Internet. With the advent of WebMD and other health-oriented sites, the average Joe and Josephine suddenly fancy themselves to be medical professionals, capable of pinpointing every disease and prescribing self-treatment. This allows us to bypass the unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming process known as American health care.
What these sites actually do, of course, is empower each of us to turn medical molehills into mountains. You get the sniffles and find yourself perusing a list of symptoms online, and you quickly become convinced that what you have is not a cold, but rather some exotic sub-Saharan form of rickets or beriberi.
This is made worse in my case by the fact that two of the jobs I've held have been in the medical field. One was as a public relations man for the world-famous Cleveland Clinic, where I got to see more than my share of surgeries up close and personal (and of course now feel I could easily conduct an organ transplant on my kitchen table if given access to the proper tools...and to a patient, of course).
I also spent two years as managing editor of Urology Times magazine. This is true. One of my most tired jokes is when I describe that job as "yellow journalism" (Get it? "Yellow" journalism? It's funny because pee is yellow and...OK, forget it).
But yes, for two years I covered the exciting, fast-faced world of professional urology. Well, I suppose the word "professional" is superfluous. I mean, it's not like there are amateur urologists out there trying to remove people's kidney stones in their garage for 10 bucks a pop. And if there are, I don't want to know anything about it.
One of the byproducts of that job was that I learned an awful lot about urology and urological conditions. More than any non-urologist should know, really. The other byproduct was that I'm now a lot more likely to misdiagnose one of my family members with a life-threatening urological disease based on some benign symptom or other. More than once, I've been fairly convinced my wife had prostate cancer.
Anyway, Melanie came to me with these itchy skin bumps, so I immediately got out the "Illustrated Family Health Guide" from Giant Eagle and fired up my web browser. After seven minutes of exhaustive research, I concluded that Melanie was experiencing some form of hives, possibly as a result of an allergic reaction to the antibiotic she had been taking for strep throat.
And do you know what the worst part was? I was right! Seriously, I nailed it. I took her to the pediatrician, who confirmed my crack diagnosis. She put Melanie on a different antibiotic and gave us some sample packets of Zyrtec to help treat the rash.
Now, of course, I've concluded that I'm smarter (and less expensive) than every doctor out there. I'll be insufferable every time one of the kids gets sick ("Don't worry, Terry, I've got this. What Jared has there is clearly a case of candidiasis, what you non-medical types know as a 'yeast infection.' I recommend a topical vaginal ointment.")
The good thing is, I won't charge Terry NEARLY as much as our pediatrician does to see the kids.