The Web Doctor Will See You Now Or Anytime

I am not a doctor. I have no medical training. Yet I am in charge of health care here in our monastery. Of course, for serious medical conditions a physician is a necessity. But, for minor problems, you’d be surprised how much you can take care of with a computer and Internet connection. My abilities in this area started to grow when family members of the brothers began coming to me with questions. Then friends of the family members began to ask for information.

Not long ago I had a very simple case to deal with. One of the brothers came down with a persistent case of the hiccups. He just couldn’t stop. We tried a couple of the usual remedies, such as having him hold his breath, but nothing seemed to work.

So I went to WebMD, looked up "hiccups" and got some surprising advice. According to the Web site, if you take your tongue and curl it back as far as it will go while touching the roof of your mouth, the hiccups will stop. I told this brother to try thatand it worked!

How about more serious medical conditions? Can the Web be of any help there? One of the brothers developed a pain in his wrists that wouldn’t go away. A friend of the monastery who developed carpal tunnel syndrome had to have corrective surgery to cure it. Did the brother have the same problem? Did he need surgery? Would the surgery permanently correct the problem? These are some of the questions that went through both of our heads.

The old saying "ignorance is bliss" just doesn’t work with medical conditions. It’s what you don’t know that tends to worry you most. So I went to WebMD and looked up information on carpel tunnel syndrome. I learned that this condition wasn’t seriousyet. Certain remedies could be applied at home for one to two weeks; in most cases, according to the site, these should cure the problem. We ascertained that, as of yet, no serious nerve damage had taken place. However, if the pain persisted after a two week period, a doctor would have to be called. We tried applying the home remedies and lo and behold his wrist pain quickly disappeared.

Before the Internet I’m sure I would have sent this brother to a doctor right away. But with so much medical information at my fingertips, I could make an informed, cost and time saving decision about his condition and what to do about it.

I have also looked for supplemental information online for people after they have seen a doctor and can give me a specific disease name. I remember once going in with a brother who had a medical problem and having the doctor suggest that we look online for more help on the condition. To be sure, some doctors do not take kindly to your walking into their office with medical printouts from the Internet. But I do believe in being informed enough so that one can ask intelligent questions of one’s doctor. And some doctors just don’t take the time to tell the patient the relevant information they need to know about their illness. I have even seen a case were a doctor has told a patient no treatment was available for his or her condition. These patients went online, found a treatment and cured themselves.

Of course, we don’t always know the name of the illness or injury we’re dealing with. Sometimes all we have are some symptoms. For those times, try the National Medical Society’s site at It has a section called Online Diagnosis that you can use to diagnose symptoms; it runs a program created by 1,500 specialist physicians. Online Medical Diagnosis includes treatments for 1,200 diseases. You can describe your symptoms or click on one of their descriptive links. You will then be asked more questions. This service costs $9.95 per year.

Then there’s the online-consultation option. You can "Ask the Doctor" at There you can get a doctor’s answers to your specific medical questions.

If it’s prescription drugs you need to know more about, go to Drug Digest at This helpful site has a drug library with information on drug interactions, side effects and alternative treatments.

I have more than once joked about opening my own medical practice with a laptop computer and Internet connection. I would see the patient, get the diagnostic information and then go online for the treatment protocol. So what’s stopping me-aside from not having a medical degree? I couldn’t afford the malpractice insurance!


Since it’s back-to-school time again, this month’s picks will look at a few resources for students referred to by Catholic schools.

Holy Family School is for students in kindergarten through sixth grade in Sauk Center, Minn. They have a Student Resources page at that includes online links for educational references, science resources, social studies resources, news and current events, language arts resources and art resources.

Brother Martin High School in New Orleans has a resource link called Homework Central at This massive site claims to have the world’s best free study and research help. Elementary, middle-school and high-school students will find a load of homework help here. There are also resources for teachers, librarians and parents.

St. Timothy School in Philadelphia has a links page that led me to College Board at What is this site useful for? You will find advice for planning for college, taking the SAT and PSAT tests, finding the right college, getting into college and, last but perhaps not least, paying for college.

Other resources can be found by looking through the school links in my online Catholic directory at

Brother John Raymond welcomes
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He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
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