So scary I could V.O.M.I.T.


So scary I could V.O.M.I.T.

A neurologist once told me that he and his colleagues have an acronym to describe what happens when a patient who does not need an MRI nevertheless gets an MRI.

“We call it V.O.M.I.T.,” he told me. “Victims of Medical Imagery Technology.”

What happens, he said, is that when you slide a human body into a magnetic resonance imaging machine, you’re asking a million-dollar piece of equipment to find something wrong.

And it always, he told me, finds something wrong.

Not really wrong, apparently. The inside of our bodies is a weird and bumpy landscape, even in the healthiest condition. We all have little growths here and there, clouds of mysterious somethings in our brains, things that seem larger or smaller than they should be. We’re a mess, he told me, all of us.

But that doesn’t mean we’re in trouble. It just means that our insides are disgusting. But often, a patient (and a doctor) will overreact to whatever appears on the MRI, and that will begin a cascade of medical interventions and investigations, which will lead to new “findings” that suggest new conditions, and before you know it, a perfectly healthy patient is having bits and pieces removed and biopsied and tested and is spending months (and tens of thousands of dollars) looking for an illness that isn’t there.

Which is why he and some of his colleagues came up with the acronym V.O.M.I.T. Because sometimes, more information isn’t a good thing.

I’ve been in a similar situation. Not too long ago, I found myself in the office of a hematologist. A hematologist, for the record, is the name they give a certain kind of doctor, because the other name for a specialist in the same area is oncologist, and that’s a scary word. A hematologist sounds almost like one of those doctors who use herbs and crystals. Oncologists, as we all know, are cancer doctors. I prefer herbs and crystals.

So, when you’re referred to a hematologist, as I was a few years ago, it’s a fairly easy appointment to make, psychologically speaking. It’s only later, as you approach the office door, that you notice that there’s no “Hematologist” on the sign. Instead, in big block letters, is the word “Oncologist.”

I was there because I had been tricked by my regular doctor into getting a series of complicated blood tests. We were trying to identify the cause of a recurring fever I had for several months but could not shake.

My general feeling is, if you don’t want bad news, then don’t go looking for it. I was a believer in the V.O.M.I.T. theory before I even knew what it was.

The oncologist — nee hematologist — sat me down, reviewed some of my alarming blood work with me, and told me he was going to take some more blood and get me the results within the hour. I could wait in the waiting room, if I liked, and then, he pointed to my phone.

“Promise me you’re not going to go on the internet while I’m getting these results. Right now, Google is not your friend.”

“Okay,” I said. “I won’t.”

The second he left the room, I went on the internet, and for 40 terrifying minutes, I Googled all of the terms and possibilities he had just carefully described to me, and the result was that I went from a guy who had a couple of odd blood irregularities he was checking out to a guy who was hoping, based on 40 minutes of Googling, that he had leukemia. That was the best option I could identify on Google. I was hoping for leukemia. My fingers were crossed for leukemia.

“You went on the internet, didn’t you?” the doctor said when he returned with the results to find me staring slack-jawed into space. And then, he told me that the new tests showed that I was fine. The initial blood work was done when I was still feverish — and he used words like “white cell count” and “platelet,” but I wasn’t listening — and the recent tests showed that my blood was back to normal.

“So what’s wrong with me?” I asked. “Why did I have that recurring fever?” He paused. “What we call that,” he said, “is an F.U.O., which stands for Fever of Unknown Origin.”

“So you have no idea?” I asked. He looked uncomfortable, which doctors often are when they have to say the words he said to me.

“Yeah, we don’t know. Honestly, it’s probably nothing. Maybe a small infection your body took longer to attack? Who knows? How do you feel now?”

“Relieved,” I said.

“No, I mean health-wise?”

“I feel fine,” I said, but the truth is, I felt nauseous. Like a V.O.M.I.T. Like someone who had gone looking for bad news and nearly found it. I’m not sure doctors have an acronym for the way I felt, but if I had to come up with one, I might use the one they use for Fever of Unknown Origin, though I think I’d drop the final letter.

Rob Long is a television writer and producer and the co-founder of

© 2022 Washington Examiner

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles