While traveling last month, I chanced on "Medical Mysteries," a television show about disease and illnesses that stump the experts. I killed two hours, engrossed by others' medical problems. Why? Just trying to build my knowledge about the human body, because I happen to own one.
(And there is a short story, isn't there? A future where you mortgage your body. Wow, such possibilities. Think I'll call it "The Owner".)
The first case stayed with me. A young female college student developed a problem where she would vomit after a few bites. Naturally, she began losing weight and energy and called her Mom after the issue worsened. Her mother, on seeing her daughter when changing clothes, was shock. Always petite and slender, her daughter was now skeletal, with ribs and joints clearly, sharply outline.
Doctor after doctor failed to diagnose the problem. Most assumed anorexia nervosa. She was classic, a doctor told her without looking at anything. It's all in your head.
To the Internet! The woman began searching for help about her problem. Eventually, she saw a procedure that allowed 3D modeling through MRI and found a doctor to help her. He discovered she had a rare condition where her arteries had squeezed around her duodenum. Nothing could pass through it from her stomach. Surgery was required to resection the duodenum around the arteries.
It's good information to know. I filled it away, in case I ever notice these symptoms in myself or another.
By the way, she recovered and graduated from college and applied to Law School. She plans to be a patient advocate.
All of this returned to me today while reading The Age. Australians are smitten with a British television show, "Embarrassing Bodies". Quoting the article, ""My labia's too large," complained one 23-year-old. Why do we care? Because "it affects me every single day, and every day I feel more bad about myself".
The complaint is not for aesthetic reasons but for comfort; the labia has swollen so far that it rubs her underwear and she dreams about cutting it off."
You see why I want to watch.
Seriously, I want to watch because this body that I have, which I use just about every day, changes just about every day. I need to educate myself about what it's doing. New bumps and lumps, limps and pains come and go, like they follow some sort of cosmic tide. Are they normal? Should I be concerned? I don't know. Although I own the body, free and clear, nobody gives me any sort of good insight into what in the world causes these things. It's left to me to listen to my breathing, beating heart, burping, and farting, inspect my bowel movements and my pee, and say, "I guess that's okay, I'll keep an eye on it," unless you want to run to a doctor for enlightenment.
Sorry, but as much as I like my body, that gets expensive.
Besides these shows, the voyeur in me rears up, mortified and fascinated by the issues that affect others - like the guy with a 'fractured penis'. I mean, how the hell do you fracture a penis? Seriously? And what do you do about it when you get one?
I mean, that would be good information to have.
Just in case.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com