This popular Slate article describes how his mother, desperate and frustrated by the hospital's inability to cure her son, posted pictures and a cry for help to her Facebook account. Within hours, several knowledgeable experts (including her cousin, a pediatric cardiologist) had left posts on her wall mentioning that it might be Kawasaki disease, and she should go straight to the Emergency Room.
The first lesson about this story is, it's important to have good Facebook friends! Although to be fair, once she arrived at the hospital, she learned that her pediatrician was considering Kawasaki disease as the next possible cause of her son's problems.
Talk about the "wisdom of crowds." It's like an episode of "House, M.D." come to life!
Kawasaki disease is most prevalent in Japan, and among people of Japanese descent. But even in the United States, it is the "second leading cause of heart disease in children." The causes of Kawasaki disease are not yet fully understood, although experts believe it may be an autoimmune disorder.
Kawasaki disease starts out looking just like many childhood illnesses. Deborah Copaken Kogan initially thought that her son Leo had come down with strep (as did her doctor). It begins with a persistent high fever which can last up to 2 weeks, and which is not reduced by either Tylenol or ibuprofen.
The next diagnosis was scarlet fever, an understandable assumption because like scarlet fever, Kawasaki disease causes swelling in the mucus membranes and the walls of blood vessels. This means that as the disease progresses, it can cause bloodshot eyes, peeling skin, bright red lips and mouth, and swelling on the hands, feet, and face.
Treatment is very effective for Kawasaki disease, but the disease can still cause long-lasting damage to the patient's coronary arteries. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to successfully surviving a bout of Kawasaki disease, which means that parents should definitely be aware of the symptoms, just in case.
Of course, most of us who have posted symptoms to our social networks have learned the hard way that the result is often both terrifying and very wrong. I guess the key here is to have pediatric cardiologists in your Friends list!