Friday, April 29, 2011

Did I say losing it?

When you pick up the clothes, that you have just changed, and carry them with every intention of putting them into the laundry bag, but instead you walk to the kitchen and throw them in the dustbin...you’ve got a problem baby!


When you can’t remember if you had your morning dose of vitamins & meds, an hour or two after breakfast...honey you’ve got a problem!


When you sit to play Solitaire and Hearts for a little while to pass the evening and suddenly realize your arm hurts, your eyes are blurred and it’s 1.30 am or sometimes even 2.30 am....it is a problem!


When you find telltale signs of social withdrawal......you talk to yourself and the walls listen....sweetie go to the doctor!


When you find it hard to remember which regiment your brother is in.....you worry and ask yourself....am I losing it?


When you find yourself groping for simple words because all of a sudden your mind goes blank....and the inner panic makes it worse....yell, it is trouble!


When you stop while talking because you realize you just said something that wasn’t what you meant like “wheels” instead of wind and many such disassociations...it’s not a comforting feeling and you want to talk to someone about it. Someone who will understand, be patient and above all is knowledgeable.


So you go to the only medical person you know and trust....your orthopaedic surgeon. You tell him what’s happening and barely whisper, “Is it Alzheimer’s?”


You aren’t prepared for the loud burst of laughter. You did not crack a joke...or did you, your brow crinkles as you try to go over what you said just in case....


“I’m serious doc,” you say a bit louder.


“Ma’am, you are still young for that, besides not many Indians are afflicted with the disease. Don’t worry no one dies of Alzheimer’s, the people who look after them die,” he ends with another burst of mirth.


Then he notices the look in your eyes. It is telling him you don’t find it funny. It is saying that the statistics for Indians with Alzheimer’s is questionable. Your eyes want to know at what age the first signs of the ailment are detectable. Yes, you want to know if you are a possible host for Mr Alzheimer.


“You are stressed. It’s nothing else, take a break, go for a holiday; meet more people” he says gently.


“You mean I’m not losing it?” you ask hopefully.


“No, not at all,” he says in his rich baritone, “you’re not losing it, it’s just that you are not using it.”


He had a point.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Backing the backbone

When I first heard the word osteoporosis, I was sitting with my doctor and staring at my BMD and MRI scan reports. The films clipped onto a board on the wall lit up a picture which wasn’t too bright. My reluctant affair with a raging disease had begun and it was to be more than a bony affair. I knew how important my skeletal structure was, but now I learnt how bones could lose mass, and how just having a skeleton wasn’t going to keep you up; You had to feed it and care for it in the right way. Hollow structures didn’t hold up anything.


All of a sudden little gestures and movements that I had taken for granted became restricted. Those that weren’t had to be executed with utmost care. Nonetheless, I managed to rupture discs, or in the least cause a tear, which would put me in bed with excruciating pain in both my body and my mind. The ordinary task of walking became a feat; the rest and peace one hoped for through sleep was missing; pain had become a way of life for me and I learned to bear it with mental strength rather than stuff myself with pain-killers. My conversation was dotted with L1, L2,L3,L4,L5 and C2, C3, C4, C5 and bulging discs and my life was reduced to redundancy within the four walls of my home. It was harder for the mind to accept this than for the body to deal with it. As I said earlier, it was more than a bony affair, it became a lesson in fortification: of the spirit, of determination, of the will to overcome. What was hardest of all was the way people looked at me. I saw a whole gamut of emotions written on people’s faces from pity, dismissal, underestimation and impatience to the general disgust few people have for those with some form of disability. That is when I got the biggest lesson of my life. A strong spiritual backbone keeps us erect while we are bent in half physically. So it needs to be developed too.



Our spiritual backbone needs our attention . Just as we need to fortify our bones with the right nutrition and exercise, we have to feed on spiritual food too and constantly exercise our faith. Faith and prayer constitute the spiritual backbone.


There are many who are actually bent in half spiritually even as they stand erect physically.


I think many of us exercise and strengthen our wishbones more than our backbones. When I was a child I loved getting the chicken 'wishbone', which I would break with one of my siblings hoping I would get the wish! Well since then I too have had my share of wishing on a bone. Zoom to the present and I'm hanging on a wing and a prayer. I am glad that I had the gumption to refurbish and restore my faith thus building up a back-up for my weakening bony structure. All my battles whether related to health or any aspect of life, have been won through my mind and spirit; my spiritual backbone. Whether I lay in bed nursing a ruptured disc or hobbled along painfully, I always stood tall inside.


As Joyce loves to say, “We need backbones not wishbones.”


It's been over three years since that day in the doctor's room. There have been ups and downs but I'm glad to report that I am responding well to treatment and can walk and do quite a few things I wasn't able to do earlier. I understand I will never be able to do many things and that my condition is not totally curable. Medical interventions will aid me and reverse conditions a bit, but eventually the aging process will determine the final outcome. Each day is unpredictable. It could be great for days and then one small movement can go awry. Thank God for another backbone!

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