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View from the bottom rung - Aug. 9, 2014

Darndest thing I ever saw. The pain meandered aimlessly about curiously exploring the length and breadth of my entire innards, some time here other times over there but the soreness of it, extreme with applied pressure, was a dime-size spot on the inside lower right ribcage. EKGs and X-ray’s by the family physician failed to produce signs of abnormality in the old ticker, so its over to Summit for a battery of imaging procedures and tests which indicated a clean bill of health in the intestines, lower and upper.

In kicks the worry factor. I’m hurting dagnabit, what dreadful disease may I have now, although admittedly the malady in its persistence is more annoying than painful. Turning to the Internet, I research the symptoms of various diseases, scroll through a dozen and pause at pancreatic cancer. Hmm: Not good, not good at all. That’s when I chance upon the medical advice column of Dr. Gott carried by the local; I pick up the paper one day, gaze upon the good doctor’s column and sez to myself ‘there it is, Dr. Gott has got it nailed, that’s what I got. Congratulating my self for sleuthing out my own diagnoses the information was fetched down to the primary, a plan of action formed and treatment was soon underway.

Chondritis. Well a form of it anyway, more specifically costochrondritis which works out as inflammation of the rib cartilage. The problem occurs when the cartilage between the ribcage and breastbone is stressed by strenuous activity or accident causing soreness and pain, an injury that cannot be detected through ex-ray or imaging procedures. The referred pain (Referred pain means you have a problem here, but the pain of it is over there) is still a puzzle, whether a symptom unique to the malady I know not. An anti-inflammatory medication is prescribed.

Whenever one experiences a “heart event” or coronary artery blockage as have I, the specter of it never leaves, just hovers about, moves in and settles in a corner of one’s consciousness, growing restless and stirring around anytime a twinge occurs anywhere near the chest area, be it caused by acid indigestion, pleurisy, a strained or bruised ribcage or even, well, even a diet of legumes. Beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc. It has been 14 years since that little coronary artery incident which required a stent implant which after fits and starts has served me well; nevertheless the specter of it gnaws at my consciousness and I’m relieved and happy the probable cause of the symptoms suffered is something far more benign than first feared, goes down to the pharmacy picks up my prescription and since there is no medication that has ever given me the slightest hint of an allergic reaction, forgo reading the cautionary instructions, pop the recommended dosage into my mouth and swallow. Life is good.

The discomfort in my chest began sometime after midnight, at first mildly annoying but steadily increasing in intensity until impossible to ignore. Concern eventually turned to outright alarm as I arose from bed, dressed my self in anticipation of dialing 911 for immediate medical assistance, and from 1 until 2 a.m. walked the floor, phone in hand trying to decide should I or shouldn’t I. The pain subsides after a long hour, so I undress and go back to bed, relieved the incident is over. Comes the dawning I read the cautionary instructions which sez, in big bold lettering ‘do not take this medication if you have ever had heart or coronary problems. Oh well, we live we learn, and if we’re lucky we survive our mistakes and die of old age, worn out and tired of the effort anyway.

They tell me its not how old one lives but the quality of life that matters. I tell “them” no matter the quality, I want to live only to the point I get up of the morning and can’t hack the time-stressed caricature staring back at me from the bathroom mirror. (I reserve the right to change my mind.)

My personal obsession (call it attention) with various stages of the human lifespan began when the old odometer rolled over to age 40 reminding how far I’ve traveled along life’s road but in fact social science has obsessed the matter for, well, for ages. Here a lifespan is wrapped up in incremental packages of rise and decline, wherein is given attention to theory, philosophy and psychology of the human experience beginning to end. Each of these decades is assigned a value designed to identify markers lain down to pinpoint ones progress along the road of life. The designations are as follows:

• Denarian: ages 10 to 19.

• Vicenarian: ages 20 to 29.

• Tricenarian: Ages 30 to 39.

• Quadragenarian: 40 to 49.

• Quintquagenarian: Age 50 to 59.

• Sexagenarian: 60 to 69.

• Septuagenarian: Age 70 to 79.

• Octogenarian: Age 80 to 89.

• Centenarian: 90 to 99.

• Super Centenarian 110 and older.

Within these designations, not counting childhood and puberty, exist four age groupings beginning with young adult, which period extends to 45 years. Beyond young adult lies middle age which covers the years 45 to 60, old age is said to kick in at about 60/65 and carry on through 70/75 with anything beyond considered “elderly.”

Backtracking a ways I’m inclined to think the term “middle age” is a misnomer; we enter middle age from the toughness and invincibility of young adulthood with all its muscle and bone, and suddenly find our bodies don’t respond in the way we had come to expect them to. Call it the twilight zone age, as the world suddenly becomes a weird place, where one comes to the realization that the energies aren’t the same, that subtle changes are taking place in your body raising concerns of the unchartered course ahead and what are the expectations of tomorrow as we progress into the unknown and unexplored. It is the 45 to 60 period where we are more likely to go off kilter and explore creative ways of disrupting our lives. Although these physical and psychological aberrations are variously channeled, much of it results from the progressive lowering of biological efficiency and capacity of the organism to maintain its efficiency.

This period of life has been given many titles but may more properly be called the age of senescence. (Definition just given) The age of senility more properly refers to the state of being aged, where despite my great form and face, as an Octogenarian I must be placed. But everything is not so simply categorized: thank heavens I’m not so “senile” as in my middle age.

Other designations may apply to old age: Say, the age of irreverency, (a good fit) the age of “getting by with all my peculiarities, eccentricities and lack of decorum,” the age of depleted energies. Though “all the above” might apply it’s hardly deniable that old age signifies a period of infirmity.

The twinge running across my lower chest seemed insignificant at first but after hassling with it for two weeks I call the primary. The good doctor was out of office so next day as the pain noticeably increases I drive myself over to ER where I’m poked, punched and tested but nary an anomaly. The decision was to keep me overnight for “observation.” No sir I allows, circumstances demand that cannot be done without prior arrangement. My presence is then requested next morning for the redoing of tests already performed. Comes morning same deal as before, but say I, ‘if I’m not a dying I ain’t a staying. When finally I contact the primary a popular anti-acid is prescribed offering almost instant relief. Meanwhile I’ve been made an appointment with my cardiologist where I undergo my umpteenth EKG, then a return trip to the primary for still another appointment over at Sparks hospital for an—endoscopy.

Accompanying me to Sparks is my elder sister and the two of us sit for two cold shivering hours past appointment time before reaching preparatory. There we encounter the “have you ever had” part of the process, a volume of endless questions about the history of ones health, hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Well into the age of maturity, the processing nurse carries on with her duties in a sober, professional manner, gazes into her cyber machine fingers hovering over the keyboard, then pauses to ask if my medical history includes surgery: Why yes sez I without hesitation, I was circumcised when I was 18 years old; I must say the gal performed an admirable recovery from swallowing her chaw and even though the effort appeared somewhat painful, managed to maintain composure.

Another medical appointment upcoming, new complaint: Getting to where every time I walk into my primary’s office his standard salutation is “what now?”

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