Dr. Ron Atchison, internist, waited outside his patient’s room while the current group of medical students and residents filed out behind him. He motioned them to follow him down the hall to a small conference room. When they had all crowded in, he spoke.
“This is just for the medical students. The rest of you hold your peace,” he said. His chief resident and the first year resident smiled at each other and settled in the corner chairs. “Okay, any one, what did you see in there, just now?” Dr. Atchison leaned against the wall, eyeing the medical students.
Mary Hall, a fourth year student spoke up. “A 67-year-old female with episodes of non-cardiac chest pain, probably esophagitis based on her rapid response to antacids and repeat negative cardiac enzymes, hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides, border-line high blood sugar and mildly obese . . . and . . .” Mary paused, knowing there was something more she should say.
"Hello, Susan. Come in and sit down. I've been expecting you." Dr. Robbins came from behind his desk, motioning to a leather arm chair.
"Good afternoon, Dr. Robbins," Susan responded."Yes, mother's heart attack got my attention." She perched on the edge of the chair, tightly clutching her purse.
"I suspect it did," he mused aloud, leaning against the edge of his desk. "But we already had a conversation about her condition at the hospital, so I suspect that this visit isn't about her."
"No, it's not." Susan looked up at him. "It's about me. What are my chances of having the same thing? You know that my father died of congestive heart failure just two years ago. He was only seventy."
"Yes, I remember."
"He wasn't that old. Seventy isn't that old," she hurried on, "and mother is only sixty-eight. What's wrong with us?"
A woman in her late sixties was recently told by her physician that she could not have her total hip replacement until she lost at least 100 pounds. According to her doctor, her morbidly obese condition would make her surgery more risky, make her recovery more hazardous, and likely negate any positive outcomes the surgeon could create with the new knee joint replacement. The problem? In her current condition, she can barely walk with a cane, so calorie-burning exercise of any type is unlikely. She has no conscious control of, or rational guidelines for, her eating habits. At her age and body size and mental attitude, she is not likely to be able to lose the weight. Is it too late for her?
Does everyone know about the Silent Killer? High Blood Pressure? How high blood pressure can exist silently – without symptoms – for years until the sudden heart attack or stroke happens? There is also a silent killer of eyes – glaucoma.
Three million Americans have glaucoma – about 1 in a 100. Only half of them know they have it. And if human nature holds true, only half of them are doing something about it. That’s one in four. That means three out of four are facing limited or total loss of vision. Glaucoma is the silent killer of eyes.
Most people try to faithfully follow the owner's manual for maintaining their car: change the oil every 3000 miles, new oil filter every 50,000 miles, rotate the tires and check their pressure, check the transmission fluid, inspect the brake pads, fill the windshield wiper fluid. Faithful maintenance adds years to the car's life and prevents unwanted breakdowns at inconvenient times.
Sadly, many people don't do the same thing for the most valuable machine – their own body. Preventive maintenance of our bodies, along with regular checkups, can add years of life and prevent unwanted physical breakdowns, too.
Here's an owner’s manual of maintenance procedures and checkup schedules for the human body.