I know we live in a period of medical miracles. Not many years ago no one could have told me my trigylcerides were high, because no one even knew they existed.
Today we can cure just about all the chronic diseases if we catch them early enough. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part if a person keeps on top of their health they can usually live a long and healthy life, barring being run over by a coal truck or being killed by a irate parent whose kids name you forgot to include in a sports story.
One of my favorite courses when I went to college was a class called "Medical Sociology." I took it way back at the dawn of history (Winter quarter, University of Utah, 1971). I'm not sure why I remember what I learned in that class so well, but it was either late enough in the day that I was really awake or the professor was an interesting guy.
One of the things I remember from that class was that at that time people were living longer because he said we had pretty much whipped infectious diseases by the middle of the 20th century. I remember my professor was an actual physician and spoke at great lengths about how in the future we would soon knock out the big chronic diseases too, like cancer and heart disease. He was a confident guy and that bled off to the students. I walked out of there almost convinced by the time I was 50 the world would have found a cure for the biggest disease of all: death.
Fast forward to 2004. I got a letter from a reader the other day that reminded me we had moved along very well in the medical field, but it seems we are finding more diseases that we are curing nowadays.
She started to rattle off all the things that we have around that I didn't even imagine while I sat at Dee's Drive Inn eating my chili cheese dogs and drinking cokes while I studied in 1971.
It's seems the medical field is like owning an old car. If you tear into it to fix one thing, pretty soon you are finding something else to fool around with. Today we have West Nile Virus, Hantavirus, and HIV. We also still have those good old standby's too: cancer and heart disease. And in today's paper we also have a malady called Swimmers Itch.
So, despite the bright outlook that M.D. gave me 33 years ago, I can't go outside at night to cool off during the summer because I might get WNV, I can't go sit in the outhouse and read while I kick around the dust because I might contract Hantavirus, I can't sit by a pool in the sun because all the sun burns I got when I was a kid raise my level even more of getting skin cancer, I can't go into the water in my favorite swimming hole because I might get Swimmers Itch, and as for HIV, let's not even discuss that one.
It just seems I and other baby boomers can't win. We've led probably the most pampered life of any generation the world has ever seen and now were trying to find ways to cheat old age and death by buying big Harleys, having plastic surgery and trying to stay on low carb diets.
It's hell getting old when you thought it would never happen to you.