Betsy J. Davis

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The CFIDS Machine

I think that the greatest boon to diagnosis in modern medicine would be a machine that could let the doctor feel exactly what the patient feels. This is one of my favorite fantasies. This machine would transfer the patient's feeling directly to the physician. It would make him/her feel exactly as the patient feels for a set period of time.

Go in to the doctor, hook him up to the feeling transfer machine, hook the CFIDS patient up to the feeling transfer machine, turn on the machine, and ZAP!--the doctor is in pain and fatigued! If the patient has blurred vision, has asthma, is fuzzy headed, ZAP!--so too is the doctor. How quickly he would come to understand that CFIDS is a real disease! As soon as this diagnosis machine is invented (and it is only a matter of time--virtual reality technology is improving every day), doctors all over the world will experience breakthroughs in their thinking about CFIDS.

This machine would also be handy for diagnosing conditions other than CFIDS. Last week, I went to the doctor about a problem with my wrist. "It hurts," I said. "Right here," I pointed, "And I have lost strength in it. I can't push the button in on my stick shift that is on the floor--I have to reach over with my other hand to shift." I proceeded to give him two more examples of the strength problem.

"Are you sure that it hurts?" the doctor asked, "Or does it just tingle? Does it go numb?" "No, it doesn't tingle or go numb," I reply, "It hurts."

"Are you sure that you've lost strength in it? How do you know?" I refrained from yelling, "I just told you three ways that I know!" Instead, I just imagined the feeling transfer diagnostic machine--ZAP!--feel that?!--that's how I know!

This feeling-transfer machine would also be helpful in other situations. Perhaps a CFIDS patient could check one out for a day or two to help educate less-than-sympathetic family or friends.

ZAP!--"That's why I wouldn't 'feel better if I got out of the house more.'" ZAP!--"That's why I haven't 'gotten more done' today." ZAP!--"That's why I never have the family over to my house for holiday dinners."

In my fantasy, the feeling-transfer machine could also be set to induce the transferred feeling, not just for the time the patient is hooked up, but for a set amount of time which would depend on the desired result.

For example, the friend who thinks that you are "really lucky to get to stay home all the time" --one hour. The friend who asks, "Aren't you over that yet?"--two hours. The church friend who tells you that "Disease comes because you aren't right with God"-- 10 hours--and I guarantee you that she will be giving prayers of thanksgiving that she doesn't have CFIDS after that.

The boyfriend who thinks that "you could get better if you just had a more positive mental attitude"--24 hours, and then dump him. Even if he does change his tune, there are better guys out there.

The disability examiner who says that "you don't look sick"--48 hours. The rehabilitation nurse who thinks that you should "pull yourself together and exercise your way back to health"--one week, with regular exercise required.

The doctor who thinks that "CFIDS is just depression"--a month, and then see if HE is depressed. The doctor who doesn't "believe" in CFIDS and the doctor who thinks that "If CFIDS were a real disease, there would be a test for it"--one year (no loss to the medical profession if they can't practice for a year).

Also, I think that the compassion of medical professionals, and medical treatment in general, would improve very quickly if each time a patient came back for the same problem, the doctor had to be hooked up to the feeling transfer machine for a longer period of time. First visit--one minute; second visit--five minutes, and so on. Doctors would quickly become more creative about finding ways to relieve their patients' suffering, if not to cure the disease.

Is this really necessary? Don't doctors already appreciate their patients' suffering, and want to relieve it if they can? To answer this question, I give you the following example.

For a condition that I have that flares up occasionally, I usually get two prescribed medications, one to treat the condition and one for pain relief until the condition is under control. The last time this condition flared up, I had moved, so I went in to see my new doctor; and he only prescribed one medication.

When I asked if I could have a prescription for the other medication, he said, "You don't need that--it doesn't do any thing." I replied, "I thought it relieves pain; it certainly makes me feel better." He said, "Yes, it relieves pain, but it doesn't affect the condition; it doesn't do anything." To him, relieving pain wasn't doing anything! To me, it was! (Yes, I did badger him into giving me the prescription.) Do doctors need more motivation to care about their patients' suffering? Obviously, some doctors do.

The feeling-transfer machine will be a wonderful tool for motivating doctors, and for educating family and friends. It will help the world make wonderful advancements in medicine and in relationships.

Until the feeling-transfer machine becomes a reality, all I can do is to fantasize. But someday--ZAP!--everybody will be able to experience the reality of CFIDS.

Reproduced with permission from CATHARSIS, volume 6,November 1993.
© Betsy J. Davis, 1996

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