Warranty on human health not sure

Graham Hookey is an educational and parenting writer

Not long after I arrived to help my parents, I sat with my dad in a hospital waiting room, awaiting some results from blood work.

He expressed some exasperation at the fact that the doctors couldn’t just “fix the problem” he has without having to go through so much testing.

Clearly, he was tired of being a pin-cushion for the various needles necessary to get blood for testing every time he turned around.  Both his arms, from his elbows to his wrists were black and blue from the bruising of blood tests.

Because he does not understand much medical terminology, nor for that matter do I, I tried to explain his situation to him using a metaphor he could more easily grasp. I told him that he was like an older car. One part might be going, but there is rust all over the place and there are a lot of things that are contributing to the fact that the car isn’t running as well as it did when it was new, or at least on warranty.

That metaphor, he understood completely. After all, he had an old truck in the driveway that he hadn’t been able to drive for several months.

Part of it was that he couldn’t drive it anymore, safely, so it had been sitting around for some time and parts have seized up.

And part of it was that it was an old truck and every time he took it in, the mechanic looked underneath it, shook his head, and my fad knew there was a big bill coming for numerous parts that were necessary to get it going again.

The warranty on human health is never a sure thing, although statistically, young people are a lot healthier than the elderly.

But when young people get sick, it’s generally one issue that needs to be dealt with and, once diagnosed, can usually be treated easily.

For the elderly, a doctor must deal with a jigsaw puzzle of conditions and possible medications to attempt to get just the right combination to make the quality of life the best it can be.

Rarely is it easy or quick to do so.

While we all recognize that sickness is an inevitable part of living, our expectation is that it is a temporary thing. If we just hunker down and take care of ourselves for awhile, things will get better.

For many elderly, that’s just not the case, and at some point, they come to the realization that it might be as good today as it’s ever going to get.

The optimist lives each day with gratitude for the health he or she has and the pessimist lives in fear of the future.

When we got home from the hospital that day, my dad looked at the old truck and asked me if I thought I could fix it. Auto mechanics isn’t exactly my specialty, but I recognized, in a moment, that he was taking the metaphor to the next level of his own psychological well-being.

To make a long story short, I can now replace an alternator, belt tensioner and serpentine belt in a  12-year-old Ford 150 and get it to run.

Ever since I drove the truck out of the driveway, my dad has been feeling a bit better.

Now he wants me to get his boat, the one that’s been sitting idle for two years, in the water and running.

I need to think my metaphors through a bit more carefully before I shoot my mouth off in the future.


Graham Hookey writes about education and parenting. Email him at ghookey@yahoo.com.