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My E-Mail Nightmare

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

My daughter said, “Dad don’t do it. You don’t need the headaches. Just write your column”. My three sons cautioned, “You have no conception of what you’re getting into. There will be loads of technical problems. Stick to your column” Well I didn’t take their counsel and they were right. Agreeing to provide readers with free medical updates by E-mail has given me E-mailitis. The response was massive, a bloody nightmare. And I keep hearing voices “don’t do it”. So what happened?

I realized I might encounter some problems. But was I asking the computer an unreasonable request? After all, I wasn’t demanding it to perform thousands of complicated tasks. I didn’t need to know readers age, sex , address or employment. All I needed was a list of readers E-mail addresses. Then I’d write a medical update from time to time, press the right button, and presto! It would appear in everybody’s inbox. Seemed pretty simple to me.

But to be sure, I called in an expert and stressed as always, “Keep it simple for me. And make sure my computer system doesn’t have a limit on the number of names it can hold.” He assured me I need not worry.

So the E-mails started to pour in. But soon a big red warning appeared that the data base had reached its limits! I could have gladly killed the computer expert because I had just mastered all the procedures of this particular program. And to boot he was off sick.

So I put in a frantic call to Symapatico. “Don’t fret doctor” some young computer whiz replied. “I’ll show you how to transfer your data base to another system.” This may be easy if you’re 15 years of age. But after what seemed like ten thousand clicks I got the data transferred. Only to discover shortly that this system was inadequate as well for the purpose I had in mind.

At this point I was also informed there were ethical problems. Readers had to agree to be added to a list. And what if they wanted to stop receiving medical updates? How would I find them among thousands of names?

I was sure beginning to get the message. My children’s warnings were echoing in my head. And I wondered if I should see a psychiatrist. I was having nightmares in which I was being smothered by mountains of E-mails and hearing loud voices shouting over and over, “I told you so. I told you so”

That was merely the first problem. I had just published a column about spinal stenosis which triggered a flood of messages from readers asking for more information on this diseasse. It seemed like everyone in Canada had spinal stenosis. And they were often accompanied by a reader’s history of unsolved problems following surgery and requests for advice.

Others wanted medical advice on a variety of conditions. More had seen several doctors without getting help and wanted my opinion. But I cannot diagnose or treat diseases by E-mail.

But during this e-mail nightmare there were positives. I received many generous comments about the column. Some wrote they had been reading it for years and were delighted to receive medical updates when I had the time.

Now what? First, I look on this as another of life’s learning experiences. I feel a bit like Napoleon retreating from Moscow, a trifle bruised, but still alive. Besides, I’m not a quitter. So I decided to get another computer expert and take one last run at something that should be so simple.

While I fretted at his side he patiently devised and explained a system which, he says, will relieve me from administrative detail. So today there’s a new address, a group web site, address at the end of this column for readers who wish medical updates. .

Will this work? If there’s a God in Heaven surely it will as I’ve repented a thousand times for all my past sins. And I have no desire to hear voices repeating, “I told you so.” So if you’ve failed to get medical updates I hope you will try again to make contact with the Gifford-Jones web site at http://groups.msn.com/giffordjonesmd

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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