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High blood

The ‘New Eighty’

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The first thing the cabbie mentioned when we got into his taxi at the airport on our way home to our condo was another flood submerging many parts of the city. I thought it was ironic because we had then just come from the American Midwest, which is under a drought watch. Little did we expect that we would be in for a week of nonstop rains as well. Nevertheless, it felt good to be back on home soil, floods or not!

As a consequence of the drought, Americans continue to worry about how the 100-degree temperatures will ultimately impact their grocery bills and their driving habits. With mere months before the November presidential election, they are also weary of the ugly and heated advertisements inflicted on them by both political parties.

With our friends, we carefully skirted any talk about politics, especially the potentially flammable topic of health care, lest we ignite a fiery conflagration that would forever singe our friendship. Most of our  kababayan  are staunch and vocal Republicans, which we are not. Thus, when socializing with these retired, semi-retired, and almost-retired friends and colleagues, we inevitably retreated to the safer subjects of health, aging, and various ways of maintaining one’s health.

We saluted those a few years older than us who can lay claim to the distinction of belonging to the elite group classified as the “New Eighty.” This group may have chalked up eight decades of living, but they are by no means aged by the old definition. These formidable individuals have broken the mold and do not look like the proverbial bent-over senior who can neither see nor hear very well.

On the contrary, people of the New Eighty move like they are not even aware that they have passed into “old age.” They still walk with a spring in their step and have not given up their favorite physical activities like gardening, playing tennis (doubles  na  lang), or hiking in quaint little villages in the Alps. Many continue to be professionally active and serve in different capacities in their professional organizations. Others volunteer their time in their parish or in their community. Most hew to a healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible diet spiced with an awareness of portion control, some form of low-impact exercise like yoga or tai chi, and a fair amount of socializing at birthday parties and an increasing number of wakes where they may indulge in a “sedentary” form of swimming (mahjong).

One would think that the New Eighty people would treat physical exams as no longer relevant because they have only a few years left. Not so. They are still very much concerned with keeping healthy, so they regularly schedule their yearly physical, dental, and eye exams. Once when I asked that a picnic lunch be moved to a certain date because of my scheduled colonoscopy, everybody treated it as a routine event.

Incidentally, I was dreading preparing for the procedure, which consisted of drinking 64 ounces of a most detestable drink called Golightly. In the past 20 years when I submitted to the procedure twice, I had always dreaded the prep more than the actual procedure. This time, I was again apprehensive about ingesting the vile liquid. Fortunately, a brilliant researcher figured out another less offensive drink for cleansing one’s colon. The new formula calls for taking Dulcolax and drinking a more acceptable concoction of Miralax mixed with a sports drink like Gatorade. What a relief! With the pain killer Fentanyl and the sedative Versed, I slept comfortably throughout the entire procedure until the doctor finished peering into my lower intestines.

To all those who have avoided this procedure because of Golightly, thus risking a forest of polyps, fear no more. It’s not as bad as it was. The only part of the procedure that made me cringe was when I signed the waiver saying that I could not sue the hospital or the doctor if the latter punctured any part of my anatomy.

In this connection, I should mention our experience with the anti-pneumonia vaccine. Citing statistics from the US Center for Disease Control that one in 20 adults who contracts pneumonia dies, our primary care physicians suggested being immunized from it. When we presented ourselves to the nurse who was going to administer the shot, she warned us that it would hurt. We pooh-poohed her warning, thinking that the shot would be like all the other shots we’ve had countless times in the past. Little did we suspect the potency of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. I would rate the resulting pain as similar to cutting off one’s arm, as in the movie “127 Hours.”

On the first night, I cried from the pain and barely slept even after my son gave me a “secret” potion guaranteed to dull the unendurable ache. Thank God the pain abated on the second night. If you choose this immunization, be prepared for the pain. One consolation: the shot is good for five years.

After surviving the effects of the pneumonia shot, I feel like I can endure just about anything—quite an admission for one whose tolerance for physical pain is close to nil. However, a question lingers. Is being part of the New Eighty worth the pain?

Violeta P. Hughes-Davis, 73, is a “balikbayan” who retired from The Ohio State University.


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