Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery. I've entitled this podcast, "What Are The Symptoms".

"This gel is kind of cold", she said and started to run a little plastic like gizmo around on my belly and chest. The sonogram machine that detects embryos  and can tell you if you are having a boy or girl is the common use for these things. But I am male and 73 years old. I wasn't going to have a baby of either sex. "One thing about these things," she says "they are completely pain-free. Just  a little cold as it glides along". I could see on this screen what she was looking at; my abdominal aorta.

Now why would she be doing that? I've always been a healthy guy: exercise, vegetarian, correct weight, nonsmoker, no pain or symptoms of any problems what-so-ever. What was I doing lying there in this darkened room with some young nurse looking inside me at my aorta? That's what I want to talk about in this podcast. Why was I there?

We retired people all have a few things in common some of which are: we have time to slow down, we can stay up late, we are not as fast as we used to be and we are tending towards older age. There are others but that will do to make my point. Our bodies break down sometimes a little bit at a time. No question; they do change.

I never liked to hear about all of the health issues of older people. When we used to call my mother - usually every Sunday - as we dialed the phone we would say lightheartedly to each other "lets see who is sick, in the hospital or died this week".  I wasn't going to be like that when I got older.

That is why I approach this podcast with a great deal of trepidation. I'm going to talk about a health issue. One of mine but it could easily be one of yours as well. I had never heard of this thing and neither has anyone else I have talked to. They have heard of the problem but never how it can be discovered  before it blows and takes you into the netherworld in 10 seconds or less. Not many, perhaps no-one, lives to tell the tale.

Perhaps my naivety springs from a pretty healthy life so far. But just a couple of months ago I got a call from my doctor's office telling me they hadn't seen me for over a year and I was due for a general Medicare Wellness discussion with the doctor. It is free. No cost. We scheduled.

They ask what seem like silly little things like: What  year is it? Who is the president? Can you pick up that piece of paper? What medications are you on? Can you spell "world" backwards? Etc. I did good.

As I was about to leave the office I asked the doctor if he thought  these kinds of tests were worth the time, money and energy? "Oh, absolutely," he said and went on " We find all sorts of things about patients we never knew and that they never knew. We can treat them early and we are all better off. It saves lives and money."

Then he paused and asked, "Oh, by the way,  did you ever smoke a pack of cigarettes in your lifetime?" I confessed to this evil deed but it had been 33 years since I gave up a very light usage of the things. In the old days my doctors never considered me a smoker. Of course some of the doctors were heavy smokers.

"Well," he went on, "Some US Medical Institution or research center or some kind recommend that if you smoked a total of one pack of cigarettes in your life that we do a sonogram of your aorta and check for aneurysms. You might have one. Want to do it"? I hesitated and then agreed. He said he would have the imagining center give me a call. 

A week ago a vascular surgeon inserted a stent into my iliac artery and on up into the aorta. The aneurysm was big and could pop any time. The aorta was clear but just below that was trouble waiting to cut my time just a bit short at any moment. Symptoms? Signs? Pain? Etc. Nothing. Just a good doctor and a good idea funded and implemented through a good government program saved us all a pack of money and allowed me to once again sit down and add to this collection of podcasts and retirement.

I told my older brother. He had the test. He's at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester right now. They found something that needed to be dealt with immediately.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.

Ps Since I wrote the above nine years have passed. No problem with the aortic stent. But another aneurysm was discovered in the iliac artery and was recently repaired. Medical science keeps me going.

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