CNN Food and Health

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Finding medical miracles on-line

August 29, 1995

From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Schwartz

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Cyberspace may be high-tech, but, in one woman's case, it became the gateway to her dream come true.

Nancy and David Hemenway have waited years to have a child. "You can really see her fingers and thumb, looks like they're in her little mouth," Nancy Hemenway says, smiling at the ultrasound photos. "I don't care if she sucks her thumb till she's 20."

[Hemenway and Beer] Hemenway had four miscarriages before this pregnancy. Now she's in her sixth month and doing fine. And, she says, her computer is the reason. Through the computer and the Internet, Hemenway, who lives in Virginia, hooked up with Dr. Alan Beer, an infertility specialist in Chicago.

Other physicians didn't know why she kept miscarrying. Dr. Beer diagnosed an unusual, but treatable immune disorder. "I would never have found Dr. Beer if it hadn't been for the computer," Hemenway says. More specifically, she found Dr. Beer through a on-line bulletin board.

There are bulletin boards for almost every topic imaginable. Users can find discussion and information on everything from diabetes to heart disease or infertility. They post, or place, messages about the topics they are interested in on bulletin boards. In this case, the topic concerned the latest in medical research on infertility.

Since members share the same problems, they help each other through the tough times. The responses poured in when Hemenway thought she was miscarrying again. Hemenway reads some of the e-mail, or messages, she received. "Nancy, I mean it, I am asking God for a miracle for you and if not, then His way is somehow more knowing than our prayers. Linda in Chicago." Hemenway lists off all of the names of people who sent messages to her... "Liz, Melissa, Myriam, look at all these people... Carolyn, Meredith."

[Nancy Hemenway] Hemenway is the first to say that the information she got online didn't diagnose her problem, it just helped her find the right doctor. "I just think that information is a really powerful thing. It doesn't mean you have to self-medicate yourself, or that the Internet takes the place of a doctor. But what it does do, is it gives you a forum to brainstorm, find out what other people have done."

Physicians warn that some on-line advice could be completely inaccurate. "I think it's important for consumers to exercise a high degree of responsibility," says Dr. Tom Ferguson, author of "Health On-line", "and look at various kinds of medical information, no matter what its source."

If you are interested in finding information on infertility and related topics, see the list below.

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