Monday, November 7, 2011

Positive Representation or Dr. House, I am glad you aren't handling my care!

You can't imagine how many minutes I sat trying to think of the word that needed to come after 'Positive' in the title of this post. Medication brain sucks. I should, also, be doing more writing on my NaNoWriMo project but a post in the VF forums caught my eye and I had to jot down a few thoughts before I forgot them. It would happen. You know it would.

The post in question was talking about the new episode of 'House' on Fox. I don't watch the show anymore, but was aware that they had mentioned Wegener's on several occasions. Apparently, in tonight's episode the diagnosis was Kawasaki disease (another form of vasculitis) which isn't problematic by itself.

No, the diagnosis only became problematic when you added in what the diagnostic criteria were and the patient characteristics.

Kawasaki vasculitis effects children (most patients are under the age of 5), over 4,200 children in the US a year are diagnosed with it, and it begins with a fever that won't go away even after using fever medication (Vasculitis Foundation). The most effected organ in this disease is the heart, which can lead to aneurism, and some of the symptoms include swollen hands and feet; skin peeling in the genital area, hands, and feet; "strawberry tongue"; swollen lymph nodes; bloodshot eyes (with or without pus); joint pain and swelling. There are more, but most of them mimic flu symptoms. (

The patient in this episode of 'House' did not have any of the symptoms, nor was he in the right age group. No, the patient was 30 years old and was diagnosed through liver failure and a brain aneurism. No mentions were made of the heart or the autoimmune problems that go along with an autoimmune disease.

This is why the episode and diagnosis were problematic. Specifically for those of us with any form of vasculitis because they are so unknown and receive no attention from anyone. While this episode may have helped get the name Kawasaki disease out there it also attributed to it a ton of false information. Not only that but they apparently were able to "fix" the condition (if this is wrong, let me know). This hurts people not only with Kawasaki but also anyone who has a form of vasculitis. These diseases have no cure and by telling the general public on a tv show that it is possible to cure them, then there will be no support for research into a real cure which is something that those of us with these diseases and our supporters are trying to gain.

A diagnosis with Kawasaki disease, like most forms of vasculitis, requires life long care. It's not something that a doctor can just come take away and the doctors that think that (there are a few I've heard of that think one treatment is enough) get their patients killed.

I know that 'House' is not pretending to be a medical dictionary and that they are only interested in doing what is right for their plots, but they are not performing in a vacuum. It's just lazy writing and it can be harmful. If they really wanted to do Kawasaki disease would it be so hard to use a family with a 5 year old that was running a high fever for a week and seemed to have a flu that just wouldn't go away? Vasculitis is hard enough to diagnose in real life without adding in fake symptoms.

 Dr. House can go about diagnosing people who have things that they can't possibly have and then doesn't feel like giving them the correct treatment to what it was he diagnosed.  It makes me glad I have a real, competent, doctor handling my care.


  1. Wow, the real thing would have been more exciting and disturbing. You think that if they would have gone to the effort to find the name of the disease, they could have at least kept some of the information correct. Or at least, they could have added a blurb on the end about how it isn't a curable disease and find out more at such and such a place.

  2. It really would have been more exciting if it actually followed the disease pathology Jen, you are so right.
    I think someone later in the conversation said that they sent the writers a link to the VF.

  3. Hi Wit, I wish I had started following you sooner. I'm sorry you lost such a good friend. When I saw that episode of House, it upset me so badly, I just had to post about it on the VF site. What you have said in your blog, is what I was trying to get across on the VF site. In the case of this episode, I believe it did more bad, than good, for vasculitis awareness. I'm still waiting to hear back from FOX network over the episode, but I'm not holding my breath. Thanks, Cindy

  4. Oh wow, Cindy, thank you so much for following me!
    I think the world lost a great person when they lost my friend, she had so much to offer and had the chance taken away from her.
    I hope you don't mind that I jumped off your post on the VF page. I am so glad you sent them a letter, but I am as skeptical as you that they will get back. If they couldn't be bothered to look it up in the first place, then they really don't care. It's sad, though, because they end up hurting real people with their actions.