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Thursday, 03 November 2011


By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Since I became an old lady - by my reckoning it was age 72 - I’ve had many health issues. Some are: colon cancer, a heart attack, atrial-fibrillation, asthma, chronic bronchitis, operations and gout. Hospital stays, doctor visits, prescriptions and a different diet for each ailment have become a usual part of my life.

All these troubles were and are inconvenient and distressing certainly but for the most part, I was able to keep my sense of humor and optimistic view of life.

But now I am in pain, severe pain. You know the kind of pain that makes you break out in a sweat; the kind of pain that causes you to feel nauseous; the kind that makes you sick all over and that makes you use all your concentration to just get through the day. That kind of pain takes me to a whole new stage of life.

My left knee has had a torn meniscus for some years. From time to time, it flares up. I go get a cortisone shot and then its fine for months to years. That is, until this time.

After this flare up, I went to my orthopedic doctors and they took x-rays since it had been some time since x-rays were done. They showed why my pain was so severe – there was no meniscus. Now it was bone on bone.

I was given a shot and a big heavy brace. All that gives me some relief but not enough to bring a smile to my face; it still hurts.

And so this journey continues as I try to find resolution and relief. I had a flashback and remembered a horse throwing me when I was in college and I landed on my left knee. Hummmmm, I wonder.

But I don’t want to just give you a report on medical issues. I want to point out that today I realized that I have entered another stage of life. You know the stages: toddler, teenager, middle age, and old age. I thought old age was the end of the line. Well, it isn’t – not for me.

I am now feeling helpless, vulnerable and useless. I need help in everyday living. The need for a walking cane, a walker, a wheel chair and/or other medical equipment seems likely. I’ll have to learn which ones are helpful for me, where to go to get them and how to use them. I know there are many styles and colors from which to choose and many are light weight and mobile.

I had a doctor appointment scheduled for today. Luckily, a friend stopped by and said that she could take me. That makes the coming and going so much easier. I could take myself but it is quite an ordeal.

First, I hobble to the car, then I have to push the car seat back as far as it will go. Carefully and slowly get in, then bring the car seat forward again so that my feet will touch the pedals. Of course when we get there, I have to do the same thing in reverse order.

The doctor has an office that is far from the entrance to the hospital so slowly and carefully, I hobble along.

With Sally’s assistance, it is so much easier. She helps me in the car and we set off to the doctor'ss office. When we get to the entrance, Sally gets out and goes inside. Shortly, she returns with a man and a wheelchair. What a relief – I won’t have to do all that walking.

Sally parks the car and joins the Doctor and me. We have an informative session regarding the medicines, the disease and what I should do in my particular case. This doctor really listens – it is no wonder she is one of my favorites.

After the visit, Sally pushes the wheelchair down to the outside door. This is new for her too. She has trouble making it turn and deciding how much room it needs to maneuver. I visualize us as we are learning this new skill – we could be part of a comedy routine. Sally gets me home and leaves to rejoin her busy and interesting life.

Now, I need two prescriptions that the doctor ordered and I need a few groceries. I can get them if I have to but it will be very painful and exhausting. I decide to ask a fried who lives nearby. She was not at home.

About five minutes later Pat, another friend, called and said, “I’m in the area. Is there anything I can pick up for you?”

“Yes, Yes,” I said. I gave her the list of groceries and the info regarding the prescriptions. Shortly, she drove up my driveway, got out with the groceries and prescriptions and brought them in. She put things in the refrigerator or on the shelves and we sat and talked for awhile. How nice to have company and some errands done at the same time.

Today, my life was made easier by the thoughtfulness of friends. The errands were done and I just supervised. I realize that I will have to ask for things that I need. I am fortunate that I have many friends that will be glad to help.

But – asking for help, I find that hard. That’s not what I usually do. I like to be the one helping others. I must learn to be helpless graciously.

Okay, I think the point is that I will have to learn how to live in this stage of life with some style and grace. But for now, it has knocked the wind out of me. I’ll have to reconnoiter (I love that word) back up, think it through and come roaring out to join the world again in an optimistic frame of mind.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mary, I'm sure you will find the way to deal with this new stage in life. I definitely relate to how hard it is to ask for help. It's a humbling experience. But remember how good you have felt when you were able to help others. Don't deny your friends the same opportunity!

I will agree with Dani--it's time to call in your chips--and you have many! The problem is: most of your friends (like me) are old and decrepit and in pain, too, and unable to even do for themselves!:( What to do? My solutions: cultivate younger friends and hire a lot of help!

Yup, they wont know unless you ask. I agree that people love to help, if they are able. Those who cannot due to age, etc, could be good company for you, and vice-versa. I know we have all these ideas when we are mobile, but just wait.......

Mary, I feel your pain and frustration. I supppose at this point in our lives we just have to look for the blessings we have. My mother used to say,"At least I have my mind." I am happy thst you have good friends who care for you.

Mary - I am certain you will persevere. You are a survivor!

I am just as certain that I could not. Just reading about what you have endured makes me want to collapse into a heap on the floor and howl, "HELP"! - Sandy

In naming the stages of life: toddler,teenager, middle age and old age,

I found two of them missing, one at each end of the continuum. The earliest stage is dependent baby. Babies demand 'help' by crying and screaming until their needs or wants are met. I believe that old age could be divided into two stages, Wisdom-Seeker and Wisdom User. Your decision to accept needing help, and to recognize how important it is to hold on to optimism, puts you in the category of Wisdom-User, another part of the old-age stage.
Michigan Grandma

I know that someday it will also hit me, terrible pain or something equally as bad and then what will I do? None of my friends my age drive anymore, and my younger friends all work, but somehow I too will figure it out and try to learn to face each day. I do believe life is worth living for.

Thank you all for understanding and holding my hand. This blog was written several weeks ago and I'm already feeling better - time and new medicine work wonders. The world is once again shining brightly.

I am late getting here today,Mary. I am happy about that though, because ,by being late, I know that you are feeling better and that makes ME feel better.

I am with Nancy. I'm sorry I'm late and I am glad you are better. Pain can really be debilitating and it seems to go with the territory.

I have no cartilage left in either knee and can, therefore, empathize. As they say, "I share your pain."

There is a wonderful volunteer group in my town that will drive elders to doctor and dentist appointments and they have saved my life. If you aren't lucky enough to have the kind of good friends that you have there are volunteer programs to fill in the gap. Somehow there has always been help when I needed it.

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