By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
May 8, 2016
This year, Mother’s Day will be a rather unusual one. Not in regards to my own family per se, but in regards to life and the fact I am getting old. Not too long ago, one of my good friends lost his mother after a battle with cancer. Now, my friends and I are all roughly the same age, so all our parents are roughly in the same age group as well. For my friend Scott, it was a long and painful battle, and it reminds me how fleeting life is. And to make matters worse, I can completely relate to the danger of losing your parents at such a young age. Fortunately for me, my mother is still kicking, and doing a pretty good job at surviving. I say surviving because she has had a heck of a few years. First she got into a car accident a few years back, totaling the car of her dreams and knocking her life into a major insurance headache at the time. Then there was the scare in 2014, where she started having heart problems due to a nearly clogged artery in her heart. By nearly, I mean 90%! It had been a rather huge surprise to everyone, especially since she was kicking butt regularly at Parsons Training and was even in better shape than one of my younger sisters (sorry Beckah….the fact you nearly passed out that one day is still quite hilarious!). She went to the hospital complaining of some bad chest pains, and not necessarily the kind that was a precursor to a heart attack. The pain being caused by the blockage in her heart had resonated so profusely that it was manifesting as pain rather than cardiac arrest. It was the kind of soreness she had had for a great many years, often times blaming panic attacks and such on the problem. So for years on end, it was really her left anterior descending (LAD) artery, or the “widowmaker” artery (as is called in the industry) clogging up slowly and evenly over the years. Her LAD artery was undersized, and the condition most likely was the reason for taking the life of my aunt Carol in 2010. For nearly a year, she was knocked for a loop and is still getting back into the groove of her workout regimen. If anything, her life might have been cut short or severely diminished if she had not taken some initiative in 2012 and started taking care of her body. Granted, the postscript of the heart issues are still yet to be finished, but at least she has developed a good routine of health to combat the problem (though she still eats meat, she has at least given up dairy to an extent).
Personally, I don’t think I am ready to lose either of my parents. Having been in the darkest pits of “anti” life (What I did was not considered living, but dying slowly) and having to pretty much relearn life as we know it, my parents have been a steady influence in my life. So yeah, being without them would be a rather devastating blow to my life. I probably would have walked off into the desert and died of thirst of something. But macabre circumstances aside, I am rather happy I still have them around, especially with all of the issues my mother has been dealing with the last couple years. I mean, for nearly 20 years, we always thought her chest pains were a result of stress and anxiety. The idea that her heart was slowly but surely getting clogged was certainly the last thought on our minds. This problem might have also been the cause of her “frozen shoulder” she suffered in the late 90s, which was of course attributed to poor sleeping habits. In a lot of ways, this situation could have been addressed a long time ago if someone had the foresight or the critical thinking skills to think beyond the standard definition of “panic attack.” I mean, when I first found out I was having hiatal hernias, I instantly thought I was having a heart attack at the age of 32! Of course, my mother kind of calmed my butt down in regards to the that thinking, pointing the fact my heart was racing and I was having a rather cogent and pain free conversation with her, save for the weird tingling numbness in my left arm. Either way, years of prevention could have been instituted for my mother, and the agony and the issues of the last couple years would have been a non issue. Heck they might not have even happened.
Misdiagnosing a problem is not entirely new in the medical world. There are so many ailments and mysteries of the body, they made a long running series about a doctor who fought the weirdest and most complicated ailments you could think of. Of course, Dr. House always had a convenient epiphany at the end of the episode, just in time for him to figure out such key diagnoses like “micro tumors,” “detached kidneys,” and “hormone deficiencies that cause dwarfism.” In the real world, we really don’t have these kinds of luxuries to look upon, much less have them wrapped up in the span of a one hour show. With people going to the hospital for every little ailment, we have made a college degree out of medical billing and created a rather large problem with misdiagnosing ailments, as well as administering too little or too little drugs. http://time.com/4316818/leading-cause-of-death-medical-errors/ According to this study, over a quarter million people are dying each year to this problem, and if luck had not been on our side and my mother had not been stronger, she might have been added to those numbers. Now, the estimate is merely an estimate, for in other articles, the number of deaths for misdiagnosis could be as high 440,000! “People don’t just die from bacteria and heart plaque, they die from communication breakdowns, fragmented healthcare, diagnostic mistakes, and over-dosing,” said Martin Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and lead author of the study that appeared in the BMJ medical journal. Think about this problem for a moment. How many lives do you think will be claimed by strokes and Alzheimers, two of the biggest boogiemen in the medical field? Well, misdiagnosis accounts for nearly double those two conditions combined. Misdiagnosis deaths also doubles up on another major killer in the US….car accidents. Other than the national blights of heart disease and cancer, “misdiagnosis” has officially become No. 3 on the list of potential deaths for the average American. Now you might be skeptical of this, but think about the issues at hand.
With so many drugs on the market, it is quite easy to give someone much or too little. And the other problem comes from this…once you start people on certain drugs, they might need other drugs or possibly stronger drugs to avoid the pain or counteract a side effect one didn’t think of. One example could be this. You suffer a bad injury from a fall and suddenly you start taking some opioids to just get through the day. And then you get used to the problem because, ultimately the pain meds really work! But as time goes, you build a resistance and start needing heavier doses, and this is where life can start to get complicated. Your immune system might take a dive, or other bodily organs get damaged. And worse yet, you might die from an overdose, which wouldn’t necessarily result in being labeled a death by “misdiagnosis.” For those that were fans (such as myself), music extraordinaire Prince might have fallen under this fate. For those that followed the man, the guy was in constant pain, but still put on long and physically challenging shows, wearing platform shoes in some cases. Rare photos showed him walking around with a cane from time to time. Either way, overdosing can become a serious problem for people, especially in the 45-64 group. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/05/05/476902228/risk-of-opioid-overdose-climbs-at-middle-age According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HALF of the deaths in the 45-64 age group were due to overdosing. You might ask how in the hell that number is so high, but I just think how it could be so low. Let’s face it, the economic crash in 2008 most likely forced a lot of people—older people especially—to make a huge change in their lives. They might have had to start working more physically demanding jobs to make ends meet, jobs they might have coped with pain pills rather than preventative exercise (I mean this in a way of building up stamina and muscle to maintain proper health). And let’s not forget the people that were already having to work these tough jobs, for work places might have been downsized and many most likely had to pick up more slack in the process. Some of the worst days at work were the days we were purposely understaffed. Yeah, we had plenty of work and put in a full day and such, but doing that sort of work for days on end can leave you in pain. It’s all conjecture of course, but I overheard a great many conversations at my former workplace about pain and over the counter pain pills (Bayer Back and Body seems to get the best marks, which was the stuff I used to use before I kind of swore off OTC drugs a couple years ago). Some people had a very concise take on which drug would work better and which would not mess up your stomach quite as badly if you took half a dozen in one day.
Now of course, there will always be the caveat of someone having a rare genetic disorder of some sort, which means misdiagnosis would be a very prevalent problem. But the gist of the discussion coming from these new insights is the fact the medical industry seemed quite tight lipped on the subject. Right now, the findings are from 2013 and 2014 in regards to all of the information that is being provided, so the trends could have changed during the last couple years. Truthfully, we won’t really know the truth until the medical field starts addressing the issue honestly. However, this is a process that is most likely going to move glacially slow, especially considering you can get sued because your kid was not named valedictorian or some guy’s dog chewed up your fence too much. So you can imagine the glut of potential civil lawsuits if the medical industry started being candid. We shall see what happens in the aftermath of this report. Frankly, very little might happen at all, considering the story has kind of dropped off the face of the Earth as people are getting wound up over politics and Mother’s Day. Either way, in my home state of Arizona, 1,200 people died from medical overdosing in 2014…quite a bit for a state as relatively small as my own.
So how do we fix this problem? It’s going to take a lot of self reflection, so like I said earlier, it will be a while before we start seeing the changes. So until then, this means we have to continue to take due diligence in our own health. I’m not saying we have to denounce the medical industry in itself, this just means we need to rely on preventative measures to stay out of the hospital. There will be some things we can’t do much about like Type 1 Diabetes or an achilles tear, but we can certainly regulate most of our health issues with a sound diet and some exercise. This was one reason why I really did my best in regards to not taking any drugs while I worked Target’s massive warehouse….who knows what other things I was setting myself up for. I knew a woman that took maybe half a dozen ibuprofens a day! She admitted once to me that she took 10! These days, my mother is still on drugs that help her get through the day to day life, but without the original work she had put into getting healthy, there is a possibility she might be six feet under. So I’m glad she is still here. I don’t know what my mental state of being I would be in without her.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
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