Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Prospects of Cyberchondria.

Some time ago we considered the possibility that Glenn Gould would have benefited from today's technology to do stuff that he wanted to do but wasn't possible at the time. Imagine what GG could have done with today's information technologies. It may have produced some awesome results. Or maybe not. If you've ever found that the internet can be a more pernicious time-waster than TV ever was, then you know that technology can be a hindrance as much as a help. It's all up to you to determine which it will be.

For example, consider popular reference sites like If you're feeling sick you can use this site to gain useful information on your condition that will help you make a rational decision about what course of action to take, if any. Or, if you're so inclined, you can use the site to determine without exception that every little ache or pain you feel is a sure sign that you have six weeks left to live. If you fit the latter description you would be what is known as a cyberchondriac. Based on what we know of Glenn Gould's personality, do you think it's possible that if he were alive today that he would have been an obsessive cyberchondriac? Yes, that is a rhetorical question.

Gould took careful notes about every real or imagined symptom he ever felt. A typical list is reproduced in
Kevin Bazzana's biography of Gould. The single handwritten page lists: 1) escalating blood pressure; 1A) chills and shivering; 2) plugged nostrils and some difficulty breathing; 3) gastro-intestinal troubles that he associated with a hiatial hernia; and 4) several months in which he was sleeping only three to four hours at a time. Let's use the trusty Symptom Checker to find out what these symptoms mean!

Well, there isn't an entry for high blood pressure as a symptom, so we'll just assume that this means

As for "chills and shivering" this could be symptomatic of anything, including the common cold. But it couldn't possibly be that. In view of the co-incidental presentation of joint pain documented elsewhere in GG's notes, I'd say this is a clear indication of
Septic Arthritis.

"Plugged nostrils and some difficulty in breathing:" combined with other reports of mild body aches and "puffiness in eyes" obviously indicates
Acute Sinusitis.

"Gastro-intestinal troubles:" although Gould associated these with a possible hiatial hernia, with the help of modern information technology, he could have arrived at the much more alarming diagnosis of
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Finally, the report of "sleeping only three to four hours at a stretch." According to "Conditions linked with insomnia include arthritis, cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes, lung disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, stroke, Parkinson disease and Alzheimer's disease." So, if there was any doubt about the diagnosis of GERD, above, this pretty much nails it. And, just to be thorough, I would assume the presence of at least two of the other possible underlying causees for this symptom. sure is a lot of fun! Go ahead and try it out. As for myself, I've already determined that I am practically a dead man.
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