The internet’s worst-case scenario is rare, and it can be dangerous

A daughter cries 'Emergency!'; a mother with scleroderma responds with calm

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by Lisa Weber |

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“Mama! Come quick!” my daughter called through sobbing tears. She’d been unwell for a few days and had developed a high fever that morning. I was already on high alert, and her cries for me were like sirens.

As I was crouched down beside her as she lay on the couch, she turned her phone so I could read the alarming message that warned her to seek immediate emergency care.

Dr. Google had struck again!

With her belly pain and fever, I’d already made a doctor’s appointment for that day. She’d asked why, and I’d told her it was always a good idea to get checked out if you don’t get better after a few days. I hadn’t mentioned that I was worried she had a bladder infection.

Just like her mama, she’d wanted to be armed with information. With her phone glued to her teenage hands, she’d turned to the internet for answers.

And thanks to Google, she was now terrified her body was close to sepsis and believed a site’s warnings that death was a possibility if she didn’t get to the ER right away. One Google search is all it ever takes to send a sane mind into a death spiral.

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Internet searches are dangerous

It took me a long time to learn not to look up my scleroderma symptoms on the internet. While it gives me answers, it’s also going to give me every worst-case scenario. It’s like having a hypochondriac friend always on speed dial.

Explaining this to my 14-year-old daughter was another challenge. We’re at the stage where she doesn’t think I know anything. It’s superfun. And of course, the written words on the internet held more weight with her than anything coming out of my mouth.

Based on experience, I decided to take her to the walk-in clinic so a doctor could calm her fears and give her healing medicine. That’s the only comfort she wanted: to be healed.

She did, in fact, have a bladder infection, and a round of antibiotics had her back on her feet in just a few days. And once she was healthy, we revisited the Dr. Google dangers. This time she was more receptive to my lesson. I hope she’ll always remember worst-case scenarios are extremely unlikely and can steal your sanity with unnecessary worry.

Save the research for appointment days

That lesson was one of the hardest I had to learn for myself. My scleroderma diagnosis came with many unknowns and doctors with limited knowledge. I had to rely on my own research to find the right care and best physicians. And while I did get answers, I also found every doomsday outcome imaginable.

I still have to remind myself that the “seek emergency help” warnings are for extreme cases. And the internet’s lifespan expectancies for scleroderma are educated guesses — not my tombstone death date.

One thing that helps is saving those searches for the waiting room at the doctor’s office. That way I go in armed with information while also having a professional to ask about the “dangers” and worrisome information I might find.

Every day I choose to live life assuming the best-case scenario. I choose hope and a positive outlook. It makes me mentally stronger and better equipped to live happily, despite my scleroderma diagnosis.

Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


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