Monday, April 07, 2008

Growing old together

Twenty years hence my eyes may grow,
If not quite dim, yet rather so;
Yet yours from others they shall know,
Twenty years hence.

Last week in clinic I saw a couple in a joint appointment, and in the course of conversation, I discovered that they were about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. What touched me about the discovery was how very much in love they still seemed to be. When I encouraged the wife to be sparing in her use of narcotic pain relievers for her chronic back pain, her husband jokingly chided her, calling her "you drug addict," but with a twinkle in his eye that made the sarcasm obvious.

"60 years of gentle harassment?" I inquired.

Before the husband could say anything else, his wife replied: "Best decision I ever made. And I figure we're good for another 15 or so."

I've been smiling all week remembering the look they gave each other at that point.


Thainamu said...


tmu said...

Grow old along with me! Robert Browning -- first stanza:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"


elrj said...

Leaves us all with something to aspire to. I feel that response when I see elderly people holding hands when they walk. Heck, it may simply be to keep each other stable and upright, but it seems so nice that they even WANT to after all those years and years.

Doc's Girl said...

I love old couples in love, especially at the hospital. They cheer you up no matter what is going on...:)

riverie said...


Al said...

note: not a native english speaker writing.

Our team arrived in the early afternoon. It was allegedly an 1 green code: trauma with no life threathening complications.

A family doctor was waiting for us, with a diligent bag in his hand. He said: "he broke his hip. Beware he is a bit in a state of stupor".

So, we had a diagnosis.

We went in the room. This old man was 94 as I learned later. His wife was about same age and weeping on him.
The guy had his right leg dangling down the bed, and the broken one, the left one, was on the bed, straight.

This man started asking me who i was, the name of my father, and if he was the engineer of the apartment beside. I said no sir, my dad isn't an engineer. well, wasn't he in a state of "stupor" after all...?

All the time the man was holding my orange jacket with his right hand.
He waved a lot this hand and arm and pointed to light, to his glasses that i put on his eyes, to everything trying to asses what was around him by right hand contact. All the time moving his right hand continuously.

Also our team doctor assumed his leg was broken, the left one.

All the time the old man kept gesticulating with his right hand.
His wife was weeping over him and he was touching her - again with his right hand.

Pretty funny uh, a 94yo man with his left leg broken, who accuses no leg pain and who has an intact right leg and a right arm that he moves continuously.
And two doctors who say that he has a left broken leg.

His face was normal. I checked his pupils. All normal.
And yet all the time he kept holding people around with his right arm.

I think even you who read, without being there, already guessed it. I did, and I am no doctor. I said nothing, as the man kept holding my jacket with the right hand.

We took him to the trauma center as the 2 doctors suggested, from where after 2 minutes they told us why the hack we brought him there: that was definitely the wrong department for a brain stroke on a man with (even!) no bone injury.

I had actually in mind a story about an old couple, 80+, she paralyzed in bed for 25 years and he sleeping in the bed beside her though he was impaired too.
But then this other one overcame in my mind.

It is both vanity (mine: I understood what really happened) and vileness (i said nothing lest being reproached by doctors).

But this story tells us one thing: Hugh Laurie in "HOuse MD" does not focus on the difficulty of diagnosis as a scenic fabrication: making the right diagnosis evidently can be THAT difficult.

For it is not a matter of erudition: it is a matter of sensibility too. If for you a patient is just a thing you must dispatch onto some bed, a machine with a broken wheel, youi will make a mechanical diagnosis and you will be SCARED of considering him or her as a human being: you just consider him an old windbag who doesn't know what he is saying.

But if you take interest in the person, then you may see no longer an old windbag with a broken leg: you can see the right thing: a 94yo human being who just endured a stroke in front of his weeping wife who, probably, undertood the seriousness of his "stupor" much better than doctors.

Dragonfly said...

That is lovely. My parents have been married 35 years and every year my father says (jokingly) "you only get 15 for manslaughter. Such a "Dad joke".