This ain’t no entry about disco. It will not be an homage to the Bee Gees nor the dancing of John Travolta. This is about an old man trying to stay alive. It may in fact be true that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Take my uncle, as a boy he was scalded by boiling water, survived pneumonia, was struck by a train. As a young man he landed on the beaches of France part of the first wave of American men to start fighting Germans as part of World War II. A mortar lifted him out of a foxhole giving him a view of the countryside; while two other men died that moment, he was left unscathed. He walked across France to join the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium before returning home to the U.S, unharmed. Over the years he has developed diabetes, required back surgery for constant back pain, had a triple bypass performed on his heart, broke bones, has glaucoma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastro-intestinal problems, depression, anxiety, and most recently a broken hip.
At 84 years old, life could be better, it could be worse, or it could just as easily not be at all. I don’t know if I’m more impressed with his tenacity or if I’m more bewildered at how many doctors and drugs are required to prop him up. At this time in his life he is seen by no less than nine doctors. Dr. Trautwein is his internal medicine guy, Berger tends to his diabetes, Boyatt for heart, Ortega diabetes too, Omlid for his care at the nursing center, Gorin for pulmonary, Enna performed the hip surgery, Thiene looks after his eyes. Kay Smith the podiatrist cares for his fragile diabetes wrecked feet. Dr. Rolfe tries to keep what teeth he has left where they belong.
Then there are the drugs; Actos for diabetes, Advair for COPD, Alphagan for glaucoma, Altace for blood pressure, Avodart for prostate, Azopt for glaucoma, Clonazepam for anxiety, Coreg is a beta blocker, Fentanyl for pain, Ferrous Sulfate for iron, Flomax for urination, Hydrocodone for pain, Metformin for diabetes, Nexium for heartburn, Niaspam for blood thinning, Senna for bowel, Theophylline for respiratory, Travatan for glaucoma, Trazodone as anti-depressant, Zetia for cholesterol, Spiriva for COPD, Miralax for bowel, Humulin for diabetes, Lantus for diabetes, and Maalox, Milk of Magnesia, and Tums as needed and finally the topical ointments for psoriasis.
And you must know he doesn’t take the meds all at once, they are staggered throughout the day. He typically has no less than two or three doctor appointments per month, sometimes more. Has anyone really looked at the issues of polypharmacy regarding this vast selection of drugs he takes? Of course not, it would appear that not one of the doctors knows the entirety of my uncle’s situation.
My brain is squashed flat and my emotions left raw as I try to help care for a man with a multitude of physcial, emotional, and mental differences from the man I knew thirty years prior. I watch this elderly man limp through rage, mistrust, self-destructive tendencies, frustration, hurt, fear, anxiety, depression, physical failure, loss of mobility, loss of control, inability to care for him self, sobbing, agression, pain, breathing difficulties, constipation, difficulty with urination, neuropathy, and the all too frequent thoughts of imminent death.
Through it all he clings to life so as to be by his wife’s side. Sixty-two years and counting they have been married. It may well be his fear of her being left alone that has him still walking this earth. This also makes me think that if burns, illness, trains hitting you, war, smoking, motorcycles, heart attacks, disease, and depression don’t kill you, just what is it we are so afraid of as we try to live our lives?