Loss in the Key of Life

The death of an old classmate always gives me pause, forcing me to focus on my own looming mortality. I learned of the beautiful Vivian King's death yesterday, while browsing through the online edition of my hometown paper. Vivian was one of those rare creatures who possessed both beauty and brains. And so her passing has a special significance for me.

A conversation with a peer nurse this morning was another eye-opener into the reality and inevitability of aging. An attractive and vibrant woman, she told of a recent foot fracture that necessitated her wearing a cast for several weeks.

"Our bodies are crumbling," she mused. 

"I agree. I'm hearing from parts of me that I never knew existed."

"You're right. Funny how we take everything for granted until something goes wrong," she returned. "I broke my foot--nothing traumatic, mind you, I just stood up and bam, some bones just collapsed spontaneously. Its my right foot, so now I can't even drive. Have to rely on the old man to go anywhere."

Osteoporosis, thought I, returning to my healthcare background as I always do when confronting physical challenges, my own and others'. So now we have bone density machines that measure whether your bones are strong or of the crumbling kind. As an African American female, my bones are not easily broken. If you're a white female, you're at greater risk for fractures--including vertebrae collapse and shatter of long bones. 

So what to do? First, if you have not done so for a while, see your primary care provider. She will order bone density studies if "medically necessary"--meaning that you meet standardized criteria for having the tests. Yep, physicians must abide by federal and state mandated protocols in order to authorize diagnostic studies--especially if they fall into the more expensive categories. Should your tests disclose anomolies, you may be subject to more studies, medications or both.

Having spent the bulk of my nursing career in the healthcare insurance field, I know of what I speak. The concern I have these days is for my own aging self: will I ultimately end up in an understaffed nursing home, cared for my overworked and underpaid staff--mostly nursing assistants who must hold down two full-time jobs to support their families? I hope not. My daughters assure me this will not happen, but having become a mother while still an adolescent myself, I have three daughters who are officially senior citizens with maladies of their own.

Yep, there's a lot to ponder out there all right. Inner strength is what keeps us going. We each have an abundance of this sometimes untapped resource to sustain us through the most difficult of times.