Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Just Treading Water

Contemplating my navel here at lunchtime is probably not a great idea. But try to stop me.

I'm so old most of my friends have been around for forty years or more. We're all circling the drain in various stages of decay on either side of sixty. What I find most interesting is that the quality of our individual lifestyles doesn't seem to have as much effect on our health as you might hope.

For example, one of my good friends has been athletic all his life. He was elected MVP of his high school football team, the year they won the state championship. He continued to play sports, work out, stay in shape and take care of himself. Deep into his forties, he was the perennial 75-yard dash champion at his town's Fourth of July Races. Every year he beat dozens of hot dog, mustard, and beer bellied celebrants eighteen and over.

Several years ago, because he was so athletic, his enlarged heart muscle was misdiagnosed as an athlete's heart. Some athletes have a heart that's larger and more powerful. It helps explain why they can run farther, faster, and longer. But he was getting slower and short of breath. Finally someone realized his heart wasn't bigger and stronger -- it was enlarged because it was sick and getting sicker. Ironically he had a hereditary disease which should have been discovered at least two years before it had progressed so far. Now DNA testing can prevent what he has had to go through.

After a year's wait, he got a new heart over Thanksgiving a few years ago. If you ever have a friend on a transplant list, you may hear the term DONOR WEEKENDS. That charming phrase refers to the long holidays when highway deaths are more plentiful than usual, and more organs become available. During the year we were waiting, our barbecues and get togethers began to take on the feel of a death watch, checking the news as often as we checked the sports scores for people who died from head injuries. 

He doesn't know whose heart he got -- just that it was the heart of a 28-year-old man, but I remember reading about a young couple from Illinois who had been killed on their way home from a vacation trip. 

I have heard anecdotes about people with donor organs assuming some of the characteristics of the persons whose organs they have received. Just recently some Scandanvaian guy got a woman's kidney and started doing housework and knitting.

So I asked my friend a few months later if he had noticed any new cravings or strange desires to do anything. At that point there was nothing.

It's been awhile since we talked about it. Last Saturday, we got together for a hamburger at a favorite old hangout with a trip to Dairy Queen afterward and I asked him again. He laughed and said he's really started to like gospel music these days.

Over the weekend there was a serial killer here that committed suicide in his cell. His family wanted to salvage something from his terrible life by donating his organs, but no one wanted them. 

I honestly wondered if the rejection was because somehow his evil spirit might be infused in the cell structure of his body parts and affect the recipient. I also have enough ESP to scare myself -- really -- so cut me some slack for that idea.

But it turns out that a prison lifestyle is so risky, he could have HIV that just hadn't manifested itself yet -- that whole six month incubation thing. So whoever got his organs would be at risk.

Meanwhile, I have a robust friend whose last exercise was opening the mail, alcohol is one of his major food groups, and he never met a cigar he didn't light.


gaboatman said...

Mrs. L
As I got older, I suddenly started liking peas and all sorts of vegetables I did not like as a child.  Could it be his tastes changed and there is no connection?  Or do you think he got the heart of a church organist?  Just asking here.

jevanslink said...

I'm waiting to see if he got a singing voice to go with his new interest.

suzypwr said...

Is this your way of telling us you will now be living a life of gluttony and sloth?

Good for you.


ksquester said...

Geore Burns lived to be over a 100 and he smoked his cigars and drank martini's everyday, along with playing cards at the Las Vegas country club.  OK, if you go, put me down for your face........transplant, that is!  I'll bring my own hair!  Anne

onemoretina said...

This reminds me of the remark that Jackie O made, as she was dying of cancer:   "Why did I do all those pushups?"   Tina http://journals.aol.com/onemoretina/Ridealongwithme

screaminremo303 said...

You can't fight genetics. I was going to leave my brain to science, but they don't accept junk mail.

jevanslink said...

Jackie O conveniently forgot that she smoked like a chimney.  Mrs. L

psychfun said...

And is that last guy doing well?

sunnyside46 said...

my husband is like that ....I watch what I eat, exercise regularly. He eats bugers, drinks like a fish and his chloresterol is lower than mine!

jevanslink said...

Definition of ROBUST:
  1. Full of health and strength; vigorous.
  2. Powerfully built; sturdy. See Synonyms at healthy.
  3. Requiring or suited to physical strength or endurance: robust labor.
  4. Rough or crude; boisterous: a robust tale.
  5. Marked by richness and fullness; full-bodied: a robust wine.

Mrs. L