Mr. S. was a cantankerous old man, bitten by the frustrations of growing old, sitting in his 2-flat, angry over every detail of his health care. After all, what else did he have to think about? When he did his best to comply and obtain a bi-weekly blood test, he wanted the results now! “What the hell’s wrong with this medical establishment?” he’d ask. “Don’t you guys communicate?”
He had always been a “do-er,” rising early to tackle the day’s challenges, highly disciplined, and organized. A star football player in his younger days, the reveled in his pre-game psychological exercises performed before every outing, he planned every play before the game began. His workouts were famous – always going farther, harder than his teammates.
But now his health problems included the usual suspects: diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and worst of all, arthritis. His health was clearly on the decline, as was his attitude for living. Life was getting too hard. Even walking to the bathroom was difficult. He isolated himself others, except his responsible wife, who had served as co-dependent to his declining attitude for too many years to argue now. She, too, was depressed, angry, frustrated, yet at the same time felt too sorry for her husband’s plight to put up resistance now.
His mother had also had diabetes. She had required gradual amputations of her feet, then lower limbs, from the scourge of that disease. He had seen her die after becoming bedridden. “If I stop walking, I’ll die,” he’d say. So each day, painful step after painful step, with the determination of General Patton off to war, he ambulate from his bed to bath, bed to lounge chair, bed to his home office. His shortness of breath be damned, it was good for him, he’d say.
So the issue of providing a scooter was out of the question. Even though this might get him out and about, able to interact with others, see a bit more of the world than the few corners of the world he had grown to know. “No, if I stop walking, I’ll die.”
What does a doctor do, in this circumstance? Certainly, maintain the status quo might be one option.
But there was another approach, a plan hatched and tacitly suggested. Get his wife a scooter. Have her use it and have him puff along side. Leave it parked next to his bed. Take it for small errands to get the mail. She could get out and breathe fresh air. So it went.
And slowly, bit by bit, he saw the advantage to her and the distinct disadvantage to him. Then he “borrowed” it. Soon he’d ride it about, say “hi” to others, smile again, engage his mind on other pursuits, read a book and discuss it with friends. Live again. The clouds parted, ever so briefly, but perceptibly. And at the end of the day, he’d hobble a short distance on a new voyage, from his scooter to his bed, thrilled at the prospect of riding again.