Seek and ye shall find

I had a strange call on my answering machine. One of my doctors wanted me to please call back when I have time, she had a private thing she wanted to discuss with me about a patient.

Strange. I'm not a doctor. But whatever. She was still in her office when I got out of the dentist's chair this afternoon, and she was happy to see me. She has a patient, dying of a seldom cancer that is not treatable. She remembers, back when she was a resident, that there was a patient with just this kind. And her boss had found a treatment in a journal that was unconventional, but they gave it a try. And their patient had survived for much longer than expected.

She wanted to find the article, since the hospital had just sent her patient home to die. She had tried to look herself, but given up. She had called the local research hospital and asked them if they knew about this. No one had ever heard of it. They pretended to look, but didn't find it. I was her last hope, because I "knew the Internet".

So I fired up my laptop with the stick, and we called up MedLine. We ticked a few boxes, put in the name of the cancer, and there were only 139 papers that came up. We started with the oldest, and sure enough, after a few pages she jumps on a title - that sounds like it!

We pull up the abstract, and she is all excited - right, that's what we used! She is sure she knows what to do just by reading the abstract, but I want to go a step further. We write down the journal name and the issue and page info, and I google the journal. Still in existence, and they have back issues online. And they even have this old stuff available for free!

They have an error on their page - you click on an article and get the next article as a pdf. So I click on the previous article, and the one we are looking for pops up. She remembers the picture and is practically dancing! I download it onto a stick (she is not sure that her computer has a USB, but of course it does) and I show her how to print it from her machine.

It is like I am a magician, materially pulling something out of the foggy corners of a past remembrance, making it appear before her very eyes. I have an invitation to dinner for this ;)

It shows me that research in the age of the Internet is something that has to be taught - and trained.

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