I have done it before, and I know YOU have as well. Left curious or bewildered by a recent doctor's visit or new symptom, you sit down at the computer and start typing words in your browser. With the doctor's office closed and alone with your own concerns, it takes little time for your to have yourself or the child you love dead and buried by morning because of a dreaded, highly rare diagnosis. You have just fallen prey to "Dr Internet."
While medical sites like WebMD or Healthline.com can be useful as a general tool, they can also end up doing more harm than good. Because these sources of information are no substitute for being seen in person by a professional, we parents can often take ourselves down a distressful, unnecessary emotional alley when we place too much credence in them.
Wise discernment is called for as we screen information about our remarkable children. The Holy Spirit lavishly provides what is need if we are willing to surrender to His direction. Some ways He works include:
- Knowing your own child like no one else does -- Despite the fact that certain symptoms, diagnostics, or treatments may not be listed on a medical website, the Lord gives a parent a unique instinct, alerting when something is not quite right. Often parents also have a good sense of where the problem is rooted. This instinct becomes richer and more confident over time. Learn to trust that God-given sense.
- Learning which websites are most trustworthy -- Diagnosis specific websites and advocacy organizations are far more reliable than generic, catch-all medical sites. For example, our family knows for certain that the information we get from The Hemophilia Federation of America or ADDitude Magazine are extremely reliable with the information they post.
- Sharing real-life, practical experience -- Chat rooms, forums, and private Facebook groups can offer the rich experience of other parents at your fingertips. Often parents find multiple life hacks or creative problem-solving ideas in these venues. As a rule, parents are usually more than willing to share with others what has worked for them. I have seen it repeatedly equip caregivers with solid information to discuss at their next doctor's visit. I have even seen discussions in these groups motivate hesitant parents to call their doctor because of the encouragement and urging of others.
- Realizing that EVERYTHING must be run through a filter of discernment -- "If you have met one child with autism, you have met only one child with autism," so the saying goes. In other words, each person is different. The same general diagnosis in your child might look different in mine. One size does not fit all. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you assess what fits with your family's situation and what does not. What makes sense? As today's key verse instructs, keep the good and rid yourself of the rest.
- Compiling good questions to ask your own medical professional -- The internet should not be your definitive resource for your child's care. Rather, let it be a good tool to equip you with informed questions to address at the next doctor's appointment. Especially if new research or medications are becoming available, doctors in the field can help you cut through myths and fiction in a rapidly changing health care field.