Saturday, June 15, 2013

Diagnostics from across the seven seas - made easy with WeChat

I have been a fan of the medical drama House MD for as long as I can remember. It was a phenomenal show, defying all network TV conventions and setting a unique example of an entirely different kind of entertainment. So potent has its effect been that even now whenever I watch an episode I often dream of it at night. Last night brought into my sleep another such dream, only, this time spruced up with a most unexpected twist.

So here I am, one of the esteemed members of Gregory House's team of diagnosticians that help him solve, from the easiest of cases to the most myriad and twisted ones. We're the best diagnostics team in the world - Dr. Gregory House (Head of Diagnostic Medicine), Dr. James Wilson (Head of Oncology), Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Dean of Medicine), Dr. Robert Chase (an intensivist), Dr. Allison Cameron (an immunologist) and I - a neurologist. We follow a differential diagnosis strategy, writing down symptoms and possible causes on a white board and then we brainstorm together, bounce ideas and prospective diagnoses off each other, and reel under House's sardonic passes all the while. He spares no one.

The dream sees us faced with a weird case of an 85-year old lady who says she's been in a too good mood for the past many days. She admits to suddenly beginning to have sexual fantasies about younger men, especially about Ashton Kutcher (I watched an Ashton Kutcher movie a week ago. The effect seems to be manifesting in my dreams..sigh!). She says she has started writing poetry and feels like falling in love all of a sudden. The lady seems to be happy, but her middle aged son thinks it insane and has brought her in for a checkup.

The problem however is that I am on a week's leave in India for an important family engagement. But the team cannot carry out a diagnosis without my insights on such a strange case (It's my dream. I get to be all important here). Everybody's in a fix. Long distance diagnoses are usually carried out on speaker phone when one member is out while the others are together in the department. But House is on clinic duty, while Cuddy is as usual busy running from pillar to post, managing the entire hospital and staff in her tight skirts and 5-inch heels. Chase and Cameron are out searching the lady's house for possible drug abuse (yes, we go against the law and search patients' homes, because - Everybody lies.)

House is getting crankier and more sarcastic in his assaults by the minute. Right when he is about to tell the lady and her worried son to bugger off (yes, he can do that, and much more), I come up with the perfect solution. WeChat! It is an amazing app compatible with everybody's smartphones. Using WeChat, I hurriedly create a group, add all the members of our team to it and start a live chat session using the 'Live Chat' option in the WeChat window.

Since it allows for only one person to speak at a time, each one of us gets to put our ideas across without interruption (something that is hard to do otherwise when House is around. He is always interrupting and cutting everybody off, the jerk!). Aha! So finally we have a tool that helps us snub House. Life really doesn't get any better than this.

The differential diagnosis starts. Wilson is in the office and as everyone chips in with their inputs verbally, he keeps jotting it down on the whiteboard. Once the list of symptoms is made, he uses the 'Moments' option on WeChat, clicks a picture of the list on the whiteboard and forwards it to everyone for ready reference. Chase and Cameron also report that the lady's house is clean. So reportedly no drug use.

It's getting sort of confusing after a point, with Wilson having to read through the long list again and again and sending a picture repeatedly. But WeChat comes to the rescue again. Chase (the hottie wrongly believed to be a beauty without brains!!) however discovers the 'Video Call' option in the app. But since all of us cannot simultaneously access the video call, House decides to call me up instead and take my opinion on the lady's sudden personality change.

What greets me on the video call is a hilarious sight. The elderly lady is flirting with House, trying all her charms on him while he has his sulkiest face on, impatiently asking her son to keep his mother in control. The son seems to be irked himself. After all, who wants his widowed mother to dream of men younger and smarter than him, and be happy about it too? I somehow control my amusement and ask House if he has had her checked for STDs. It seems to hit him like a bullet (how did the genius not think of it himself?) He abruptly ends the call, probably ordering the lady to be tested immediately. Meanwhile all of us (except House of course) get back on the group and take digs at him. The wide range of emoticons available in the app make it all the more hilarious and we're all in splits, only until he returns with the test results, that is.

He returns with significant news. The lady has tested positive for Syphilis. Now the question is, how can she contract the disease when she swears not to have had any sexual activity for almost a decade now? And then it strikes me! The disease was dormant in her body all these years, only starting to attack her brain now. The idea appeals to House and he orders Wilson to have her brain mapping done. What the tests show is dismal. The lady has permanent brain damage for which there is no treatment. But there are ways to stop any further damage, Wilson says. The lady, however, admits she doesn't want to be treated. She feels happier now than she has in a long time, and she wishes to remain that way for as long as she lives. I can almost hear House smirk into the phone. But Cuddy, ever practical and respectful of patients' rights, lets the lady leave in peace. House taunts Cuddy on her brain being caught beneath her high heels. She ignores him and leaves the group chat, followed by all of us.

WeChat thus served as an easy and fast way of carrying out a diagnosis simultaneously from different locations. No need of a laptop, no slow desktop video chatting and absolutely easy to use when on the move. I think my brainwave might just have saved the day at the hospital. Or was it WeChat that did it?

Anyhow, it was only a dream. Where else could I be lucky enough to be an indispensable part of House's team of doctors? Sigh. If only reality was as beautiful as dreams. Nevertheless, one part of the surreal dream is for real - WeChat. And I guess one could always make do with that, if not to chat with big shot doctors in medical emergencies, then at least to keep in touch with friends night and day.

[This post is my entry for the "WeChat with Anyone, Anywhere!" contest by IndiBlogger. You can check out the WeChat YouTube Channel here.]
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