Today’s doctors are smart, hip and well versed in the science of modern medicine. But, they’re not schooled in old coot medicine. Even those that specialize in geriatrics aren’t fully equipped for the task at hand. They know how a body is supposed to work. They just don’t know how an OLD body works, or how the inhabitants of these high mileage vehicles make it through the day.
Take pain, as an example. When you have a young body, or even a middle age one, pain is a signal that something is wrong. If it persists you are advised to seek medical attention, which means a trip to the emergency room or a walk in clinic since you’re not getting in to see your regular doctor. I know. I used to try. Call in July and they’ll squeeze you in before the end of the year. The system is geared to treat healthy people, not the sick. So, off we go to the ER or a walk-in facility, both of which are staffed with new, young doctors just starting out, for the most part. “Describe the pain in your leg on a scale of one to ten,” they say. We don’t use a one to ten scale to describe pain. Ours is a three level scale: It stings – It hurts like heck – It’s killing me! But, that’s not the real issue. Young docs can transpose our old coot scale to their one-to-ten scale.
That’s easy, because it’s always a 10. Old guys go into a state of denial when a medical symptom emerges. We adopt a “wait and see” approach. Let it percolate for a while. We grew up this way. Run into the house after falling out of a tree when you were a kid and if a bone wasn’t sticking out, all you got was a Popsicle and told to go sit in the back yard and read a comic book. ERs should amass a team to treat old coots, like they do at the Mayo clinic. We wouldn’t be there unless it was something we couldn’t figure out and were at our wits end.
The team should be led by an old doctor, who would know better than to ask if we’re having chest pains. Of course we’re having chest pains; we have multiple chest pains every day. Make a wrong move and something hurts. Often, it’s in the chest area. Any sudden move has an impact. If we twist to the left too fast, “Boing!” We get a chest pain, an arm ache and feel a little dizzy. Make a left turn in the car and there is a twinge in our neck. We thrive in a pain world, watching helplessly, as they race from limb to limb, torso to shoulder, head to toe. That’s why it’s so hard for us to describe what is going on when we get to the ER. But, an old doc on the staff would help with the issue. One who knows what it’s like to live in, and travel around in a worn out buggy of a body. He could distinguish between the everyday cascade of old coot pains and focus on the new one. Or, give us a Popsicle and sit us down with a comic book. I’d prefer an issue of Superman, one with a 10-cent price tab in the upper right corner of the cover.
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