Sunday, 7 January 2007

Saved by the search engine

I admit I'm seriously addicted to the internet. If I was asked what (not who) I would take with me to a remote island, it would be any gadget that would give me access to the internet.

I also like search engines, especially Google. No, I haven't been paid to promote Google, honest. It's just that I've been able to find a lot of life-enhancing information via their search engine. And so I can understand why Louise Barker feels that Google saved her daughter's sight.

I read Ms Barker's story in the Reader's Digest; it seems to have been first published in The Guardian. Ms Barker's daughter was born with a birthmark that two health visitors, five GPs and four midwives said was nothing to worry about. But Ms Barker WAS worried because the birthmark was growing "like some alien" and she kept asking about it during her daughter's six-week check. To keep her quiet, she said, she was offered a non-urgent appointment with a dermatologist.

Ms Barker was, however, desperate to get to the root of her daughter's strange birthmark and so she "Googled" it. Within minutes, she found photos of the same condition her daughter had. She emailed the Birthmark Support Group and within 24 hours, a parent who helped run the group arranged an appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Long story short, Ms Barker's daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition that could have caused her to go blind. The consultant who treated her was thrilled to able to save her sight as he sees many children with reduced prospects as a result of poor diagnosis and referral.

Ms Barker doesn't recommend people "second-guess their GPs with Googled symptoms" but she believes the Net can be a godsend. I know it's helped me too. When I had an unusual (for me) condition affecting my wrist, the GP I saw recommended surgery or steroid injections for what I was told could be a chronic condition. Now I'm not keen on surgery or strong drugs and so I decided to search for less invasive alternatives. So I googled my symptoms (the GP had told me the name of the condition but I forget what it's called) and found that it could take months to recover from surgery, not to mention the risks involved. I opted for a few sessions of physiotherapy as well as taking nutritionally advanced supplements that I also happen to market. Within a month, I was pain free.

Moral of the story: we're all responsible for maintaining our own health. And Google's a great search engine.

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