My family doctor says I have ‘aged out’

Published 9:20 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

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By Lloyd Albritton

I visited my family doctor recently on account of a pain in my right knee. Or was it my left knee? Actually, I think it was both knees, sometimes one; sometimes the other. He tapped on each knees a few times with the end of his finger until he found the hot spot. He quickly diagnosed the problem as some kind of nerve disorder s and said the only cure for it is death. “When you die it won’t hurt anymore,” he said. “But don’t worry. At your age, you won’t have to suffer for long.”

“Do you think I need an X-Ray, or maybe an MRI or an XYZ or something?” I asked.  “Just to be sure?”

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“Do you want an X-Ray?” he asked.  “If you want an X-Ray, we can do an X-Ray.”

“Well, I don’t reckon I really want an X-Ray unless I need one,” I stammered.  “As long as you are sure I don’t need an X-Ray I guess I don’t need one.  Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” he replied, as he continued to write in my chart.  “What else?”

“Well, I haven’t been feeling too good overall lately,” I told him.  “Do you think we ought to pull some blood and check that thyroid again?  My wife thinks I might have a thyroid problem.”

Doc raised his eyes to look at me over his reading glasses. He cleared his throat.  “Your wife has a thyroid problem,” he said.  “You don’t have a thyroid problem.  We can check your thyroid if you won’t to, but we just checked it not long ago and it was fine.”

“No, no, no,” I protested, waving the issue aside.  “I’m sure my thyroid is fine.  As long as you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” he snapped.  “Anything else?”

“Well, Doc, I haven’t had my prostate checked in a long time.  I’ve been wondering if we might ought to take a look my PSA score again, just to be sure I don’t have prostate cancer.”

“Well, Mr. Albritton, your last PSA score was only .24.  Normal PSA reading for a man your age is 4.  Not point four, but whole number four.  That means you could have a PSA reading as high as four and we would not be concerned about you having protate cancer.  Nevertheless, we can draw some blood and check that PSA score again if you want to.”

“Oh, no, no no,” I protested, waving his concern aside again.  “I’m not worried at all, Doc.  I’m just trying to stay on top of things so that Old Grim Reaper doesn’t sneak up on me and takes me out one fine day.  Is there anything, anything at all, that I should be keeping an eye on.”

Doc lay his chart aside and slid his chair closer to me.  With a smirk on his mouth and eyes that sparkled with amusement, he said to me, “Mr. Albritton, I like you.  You are a smart fellow, so I am going to tell you an inside secret about the medical industry.  You are 76 years old and generally in excellent health.  You look 20 years younger than you are and you are still walking around on your own two feet without a walking stick.  I see nothing that you should be worried about.  Other than getting run over by a big truck, any malady that you are likely to incurr is not likely to kill you before you die of old age.  In the medical profession, we doctors generally refer to people like you as ‘aged out’.”

“Aged out?”

“That’s right, aged out.”

“Pray tell, what does that mean?” I choked.  “You mean I’m put out to pasture?  Nobody cares anymore?  You mean it’s hospice time for Old Lloyd already?  Nothing left for me but to go home and sit in my old rocking chair and wait for the grim reaper to show up?  Oh Lord No!  It’s worse than I thought, Doc.  Way worse than I thought.”

The good doctor quickly summoned three big male nurses and they wrestled me into a straight jacket and strapped me down to a sturdy table.  “Mr. Albritton,” he continued, as he leaned over me, “now that you are calmed down, I will explain to you what aged out means.  It is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.”

“You see, all your life we have been keeping an eye on all the critical organs and functions of your body that are the most vulnerable, the most likely to cause you health serious problems and/or early death: your heart, for example, your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your blood sugars, and your prostate PSA reading.  From the time you are born until you get old, we do all we can to make sure everything is functioning properly.  Congratulations, Mr. Albritton.  You have survived.  You are now officially OLD.  You have aged out.”

“Aged out?” I choked down the words again.  “You mean, no more tests?  No new meds?  No more tubes shoved down my throat or up my rectum?  No more rehab?  You mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?”

Doc shook his head and smiled indulgently as he began to unbuckle my wide leather tie-down straps.  “That’s right,” he said kindly.  “Go to the gym; Don’t go to the gym; Do what you want.  We don’t care.  From here on out we just want you to be happy and comfortable and to quit pestering us about every little ache and pain you have.  These medical tests cost a lot of money, y’know.  And, the fact is, from here on out, no matter what ailment you get, you are probably going to die of old age before it can kill you.  Besides, even if we ran tests and were able to diagnose a real problem that was not in your head, chances are, we wouldn’t know how to cure it.  So, if the pain gets too bad, Mr. Albrwitton, just take two aspirin and drink lots of water.  Good luck and God Bless!”

To be sure, I DID NOT have this entire conversation with my doctor and he DID NOT strap me to the gurney.  That part I just made up out of delirium. I’m pretty sure it did not happen.  The fact is, after the doctor told me I was aged out, I didn’t hear hardly anything else he said.  I’m still trying to digest that part.