Old age not for sissies
April 4, 2009
Since mid-January, I have been pretty much immobilized, suffering from a number of medical problems, the source of which is not clearly evident to me.
At 84 years of age, one becomes fearful as he or she confronts any illness. And when that illness is not well-defined, the normal apprehension of facing illness at that age becomes even more troublesome.
It started out in January with my experiencing joint problems, mostly in my back, neck and shoulders. I was diagnosed as having giant cell arteriosis, a disease peculiarly found in elderly patients that causes inflammation of the head and neck arteries. Prednisone was recommended, and it was almost miraculous how quickly the pain I had been experiencing disappeared. To this very day, pain is not a symptom of my illness.
But not all was well. Several weeks later, with no warning, I awoke one morning without a voice. Somehow or another ” and it is still not at all clear as to why ” my vocal chords became damaged, permanently, and I was reduced to a whisper and remain so as I write these notes.
Next, my left arm became swollen and after a couple of weeks I ended up in the emergency room of Marshall Hospital, where I was diagnosed as having a blood clot in that arm.
Then the prednisone reacted negatively to my oral medicines for diabetes, requiring that I treat my diabetes with insulin shots.
Recommended Stories For You
Though still not experiencing any pain, I was immobilized by several weeks of intestinal disorder, resulting in severe dehydration. Each incident required a trip to the emergency room, followed by several days in the hospital.
One of my favorite doctors (I have seen 14 physicians during this ordeal) discussing his diagnosis sought to comfort me by revealing that in his experience every patient he had seen who had giant cell arteriosis was an “extremely nice person.” I was quite moved by his sincerity and his compliment. Though at a later conference, being the smart ass that I am, I asked him if I became a S.O. B. would it be easier to treat my disease?
It would not.
I suffer most, now, from a lack of energy. Too much of my time I spend reclined in a large chair in our living room watching TV. I diligently try to walk around the house every so often or to lift weights while in my recliner chair. I know I need these efforts to restore my emaciated body, but find it difficult to abandon the comfort of my recliner to pursue that desirable goal. And, in the evening, I grieve over the loss of my medically prohibited martini or glass of wine at dinner time.
It has been three months since I became ill, and the path to my ultimate recovery is still not clearly visible to me. I have lost 25 pounds so far and am not regaining any of that weight. So, here I am, seated in my recliner chair writing about my fears. There is a time-honored saying that “old age ain’t for sissies.”
I, apparently, am a sissy.
” Jerome Waldie is a former U.S. congressman who lives in Placerville.