It Sucks Getting Old

It is the funniest thing.  One day a person can be riding along in life with nothing more than the usual physical degradation common to people in the midst of their sixth decade of life, and the next day you receive a shot across the bow that signals a possible change in all that you had thought and planned.  This is what is occurring in my life now.  One month ago I was writing stories based somewhat loosely on my own personal experiences and stories told to me by acquaintances, and today the stories are stoppered up in my brain by thoughts and questions about what my near future holds.  Since I am not able to relax and pull up the experiences of my past life, at least not at the present moment, I will therefore go with the flow and work out my future as a story which is being written as it is being lived.

One month ago I awoke with vertigo, an event which happens every once in a while and which I have come to view as an annoyance more than anything else.  The spinning only lasted two days and before long I was once again vertical and believing that the worst was over.  And it was over, but for a persistent lightheadedness and fatigue which dogged me and caused me to fall exhausted into my favorite chair as soon as I returned home from work.  I attributed that to the stress of my workplace, which is indeed great, and my generally poor sleeping habits.  A vacation was what was needed and a vacation was what I had coming two weeks hence.  A week of New Mexico warmth, good food, and college football with my brother and his wife is all I would need to put things right.

The day of my flight came and I arose to cook breakfast, finish packing, and be driven to the airport.  As I diced potatoes and cooked the bacon however the lightheadedness swelled to near vertigo proportions, and I eventually had to sit down after eating and assess my ability to accomplish the task of carrying my bags through security and stowing them overhead for the flight.  Fortunately, the sensation reached a plateau and then receded a bit, allowing me to get out of my chair and negotiate the obstacles which stood between me and the outrageous New Mexico food and a comfortable visit with much-loved family.  On the evening of my arrival I felt reasonably well and awoke the following morning back at my baseline, which was not great but certainly doable.  That day was pleasant as was the next, until about three o’clock when I felt the lightheadedness and fatigue increase once again.  This was the pattern for the rest of my trip.

The morning after that first recurrence while I was on my trip I called back home to make an appointment with my naturopath for the following week when I would be home.  The morning of that appointment came and I found myself seated in a familiar chair in the small office of my ND.  I prefer naturopathic medicine because it seeks to work with the body to keep itself healthy rather than chemically seeking to counter ill health.  I like to think of it as health care versus disease management, although I am not dogmatic about refusing conventional medicine.  It is just not my first choice.  The doctors, for there are two of them who work together, did what all doctors do; they poked and prodded, looked and listened, and finally came up with a plan.

“You may just have a lingering virus that will eventually be corrected by an otherwise healthy body” was the first possible explanation.  The second was that I am taking too high a dose of a tincture which the doctors whip up for me at the sink to counter my high blood pressure.  I am relatively thin and usually active, but I inherited what is called ‘essential hypertension’ from my mother.  That means that I have elevated blood pressure for absolutely no good reason at all.  The tincture, made of natural ingredients in proper proportions, keeps my blood pressure well within the normal range, but the doctors felt that I might be taking too much and suggested that I reduce my dose.

Then came the third possibility.  I have a common heart defect called Mitral Valve Prolapse.  One of the valves in my heart is supposed to open during each resting phase of my cardiac cycle to allow the blood to flow from one chamber to another.  When a heart has mitral valve prolapse however the blood can sometimes flow, at least partially, in the wrong direction.  People with mitral valve prolapse usually experience few if any symptoms, but when they do experience symptoms they usually include lightheadedness and fatigue.

So I was sent away with an adjustment in my blood pressure tincture and instructions to prepare to see a cardiologist if that adjustment does not correct the problem.  The only treatment that I know of for mitral valve prolapse is open heart surgery for a valve repair or replacement, although there is much that I have yet to read of and learn about concerning that sort of thing.

So now begins a journey.  The journey could be a short one with a very satisfactory ending or a longer one with a more complicated denouement.   Either way, it is a story that is very familiar to a great many aging baby-boomers and may allow non-boomers a glimpse into the common reality of a group with which they may have little contact.  For me, it is a way to work out my experiences and feelings in a way that is most comfortable to me; words on a page.

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