Close Encounters With MedlinePlus of the Personal Kind – A True Story
by Gail Kouame
About a year ago, I learned that I have uterine fiboids, benign growths that are quite common in women my age. A year later, however, they have grown and are starting to cause me some problems. My physician referred me to a gynecologist who, after examining me, determined that I am a good candidate for a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy, a minimally invasive alternative to a total abdominal hysterectomy. My gynecologist explained some other options and also described the procedure and we agreed that this was my best option.
So, what’s a gal to do upon receiving news like this? Of course, I went straight to my computer and navigated to MedlinePlus.gov, NLM’s consumer health information portal. I went to the “Health Topics” page, clicked on the letter “H” for Hysterectomy and found that there was a link to a video of the exact procedure that I will be having!
I asked myself, “Do I really want to watch this?” When doing training sessions about MedlinePlus in the past, I’ve often referred to the surgery videos as the “gross-out factor.” I mean, you are watching an actual surgery! One of my colleagues even said, “You don’t really want to watch that, do you?” With somewhat morbid curiosity, I clicked on the link*. I have to admit, I did have to brace myself for the opening minutes of the video. They show an abdomen with several instruments protruding from it and such. But, once I got past that and settled into it, I was fascinated and learned so much about my upcoming procedure and just what to expect.
The video starts off with the patient (whose confidentiality is protected throughout) prepped and, as I mentioned, instruments and laparoscopes already in place. The physicians performing the surgery and their team are introduced and viewers get a “tour” of the operating room. They also describe the patient’s medical history and why she’s a good candidate for the surgery.
Once the procedure is underway, the surgeons do a great job of explaining just what they are doing and the various instruments. They also give you an “inside tour” of the patient’s anatomy. And that’s another thing – I learned a lot about my own anatomy. Really, those cartoony pictures you see in middle school sex education classes just don’t quite do the trick! I certainly have a much better idea of what’s what and how all the pieces relate to one another.
While the actual surgery was being filmed, viewers were able to email questions into the physicians in the operating room. Lo and behold, many of their questions were the very ones I would have asked! After watching the one-hour video I feel much better informed about what to expect in terms of the procedure itself and my recovery. I asked my husband to watch it too, since he will be my caregiver at home following the surgery. Guess what? He actually did it, so he is also more knowledgeable about what I will be going through and how my recovery should go. Lastly, I realized that to have read the same amount of information in print would have been overwhelming. As a matter of fact, there is an option to read the transcript of the program and it’s 17 pages long.
I’ve always been an advocate for MedlinePlus as a great place to go for health information. After my experience with the surgery video, I’m even more convinced that there’s something there for almost everyone. I can now promote the site with renewed passion – and a personal story to boot. After all, when it’s personal, it’s powerful!
*To view the videos on MedlinePlus, you need to have Flash installed on your computer.