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Reflections November 2016

Boy, Was I Wrong!

By Jim Cotsana

So now, I have to put up with the ringing in my ears, askingpeople to speak up a little louder, bouts with bursitis, acid reflux which requires me to watch what I eat, and lower back pain from spinal stenosis – those same issues I remember being discussed by adults when I was much younger.

When I was in my late 20s, I would often over hear much older adults around me complaining about their hips, knees, cholesterol, back pain, poor hearing, things they could no longer eat because of acid reflux, etc. None of this made an impression on me. Being a former Marine officer, I continued with my physical fitness routine for years after I left active duty. I felt I was in great shape and would never have to confront any of these issues or ailments.

Well, things do change. About seven years ago, my left hip started bothering me to the point where I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. Whenever I turned, I would wake up from the pain. Thinking it was my hip, I had an x-ray which showed it to be bursitis. I got a shot and I can control it with an ice pack whenever it flares up. About the same time, I started to get ringing in my ears. This checked turned out to be tinnitus along with some significant hearing loss. Hearing aids were recommended. Vanity kicked in and I decided I was going to put this off as long as I can.

Then about two years ago, I started to get lower back pain that radiated down both legs. I let it go thinking it was the result of too much exercise. However, it just kept getting worse.
Finally, an MRI showed severe spinal stenosis. I refused any surgery and opted for periodic lumbar injections which helps quite a bit but I’m never going to be 100% again.

The real kicker was on Valentine’s Day. For a couple of weeks prior, I felt pressure growing in my chest along with some shortness of breath and occasional nausea. I thought I might be having the Big One! I finally decided to go the hospital and have it checked out. I told the emergency room nurse how I was feeling and was immediately taken in for an EKG. Negative. They hooked up a heart monitor and took blood. A little later, a doctor said my numbers looked fine except for one which was a little off and could indicate a blood clot in one of my lungs. Off I went for a CAT scan. Also negative. I really wanted to go home but they recommended I stay the night to be monitored and take a stress test in the morning. I will admit I’m not a very good patient, to say the least, but agreed.

Trying to sleep through the night in a hospital is a pointless exercise which, I suspect, many of you can relate to. Periodically, a nurse keeps coming in to check on you, to take blood and check the heart monitor. The next morning I had my stress test. This time they hooked me up to a different heart monitor, this one connected to a computer supervised by a cardiologist. Pictures were taken of my heart at rest, then on to the treadmill, and then immediately after for more pictures with the high heart rate.

The cardiologist said my heart and lungs were in great shape and he wished more people had my insides. Furthermore, he said my heart rate went down 20 beats in less the one minute – which is excellent. “That’s all well and good,” I said, “but what’s the issue I’m having?” It turned out to be acid reflux.

So now, I have to put up with the ringing in my ears, asking people to speak up a little louder, bouts with bursitis, acid reflux which requires me to watch what I eat, and lower back pain from spinal stenosis – those same issues I remember being discussed by adults when I was much younger.

Because my orthopedic doctor advised me to no longer lift heavy objects, I call on my adult nephews when I need help. When I do call, they jokingly say, “What do you need help with now old man!” I tell them, “I was like you at your age so just remember, this is going to catch up with you someday soon so keep laughing. Also, keep in mind that I keep an eraser next to my will so don’t push it.”

As I watch them placing two heavy and bulky window air conditioners in my home, I reflect back on those earlier days listening to all the complaints about this or that ailment and never thought I’d ever be in a similar situation. Boy, was I wrong!

 

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