How far must we go in "caring for our body"?
#1
Over the past twenty years, I've "visited" several different Hospitals' operating rooms as the "guest of honor" innumerable times. My spinal bones (vertebrae) are, literally, crumbling. This began with an experience of a leg going numb unexplainably; next it was some of the toes on one foot or the other. Finally, a Neurologist performed X-Rays, an MRI, and an Electromyelogram (EMG), and determined that I had ruptured a lumbar disc. No problem, they'd just do a routine surgical procedure and fix it. Then, some months later, it happened again. And another trip to the "Room with Big Lights." And later, more EMG's as well as regular chemical Myelograms. And a few more surgical incursions.

Then, several years ago, my "case" was taken to one of the large teaching hospitals here in Chicago, where I received enough X-Rays and CT's that sometimes I think I see myself glowing in the dark. I've had so many MRI scans that even inhabiting a closed coffin doesn't faze me any more. Consequently, these learned surgeons performed a 5-level lumbar fusion on me, a procedure (with steel rods and steel pedicle screws installed into my bones) which was supposed to solve my weak and painful lower back by bolting it into one solid mass of steel and bone. It did work, too... for a couple of years. Then, during one of my annual post-operative check-ups, the surgeon remarked that he couldn't understand it, but I had managed to strip several of the pedicle screws out from their holes threaded into my spine. Oh, great.

Meanwhile, I had begun to experience occasional episodes of syncope (fainting or blacking-out) which I could not explain. But the doctor sure could: He performed a "nuclear adenosine treadmill test" and found some cardiac issues; the blood testing indicated that I had suffered a heart attack within a couple of days before my treadmill test, and I had some blocked arteries. The next day, they tried performing an angiogram and an angioplasty to locate and open up the blockage. I don't need to tell you that the procedure failed to open the blockages, and after recovering from the failed angio-stuff for a couple of days, I went back to the O.R. for a "Quadruple bypass" (known in the medical profession as "CABG" or just  "cabbage" mostly). Now I have matching red zippers down my chest from my Adam's apple to my bellybutton, and down my spine from my shoulder blades to my butt-crack. Every year, I require a re-check of both my broken heart  and my "worn-Tinker-Toy" spine. And, those annual inspections and re-checks have also brought to light some incipient cervical vertebral (bones in the neck) problems. A few of my cervical vertebrae have, like those at the other end of my spine, begun to deteriorate and crumble; several cervical discs are flattened, and a couple of cervical vertebrae have already begun to fuse together by themselves where the body has resorbed the degenerated and dessicated disc.

Last February 2009, the doctors convinced me to have the steel rods and loose pedicle screws removed from my spine, and have the area surgically repaired. Okay, given my cardiac conditions, I had to virtually dance through flaming hoops to have the cardiac assessment crew give me the approval for my spinal revision surgery. I made it through all the required screenings and pre-testing,  and was found to be hardy enough to undergo the spine surgery all over again. So, the Neurosurgeon did his best, removed all the old "hardware" and replaced it with something of much newer technology... no more stainless steel rods; instead he used some kind of an "engineered polymer" of which I had never heard.

Annual re-inspections being mandatory, I dutifully underwent my annual lumbar X-Ray series and the accompanying CT scan a few weeks ago, in preparation for my annual review with the spine surgeon. When the surgeon entered the examination room where I waited, I knew something "was up," because the surgeon was accompanied by his associate surgeon, and they both had rather somber faces, unusual for both of them. My X-Rays and CT scan showed that I have suffered another round of screws becoming loosened once again. The surgeons together explained the problem with my spine, and proceeded to propose another revision to revise the revision that was already revised. Anyone could have tipped me over with a feather. Yes, of course I knew that my spine was painful, but I attributed the pain to a prolonged healing process because of the often-repeated surgical incursions on my body. I didn't know how to reply to the two surgeons... I was, simply, stunned. I just don't know what I should do. I cringe at the thought of yet another trip into the O.R. for yet another surgical procedure that just might (but probably won't) fix the situation once and for good.

Of course, this hasn't done a whole lot for the family; I'm viewed as a selfish attention-seeker and a hypochondriac. Maybe I do squawk about my pains and aches too much. But when I'm asked to do something, and I simply hurt too much to do anything, what can I do? Our two older sons are grown and long gone to build families and homes of their own. My wife has her own bag of troubles with which to contend: she has moderate Osteoporosis, and a couple years back, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and she has difficulty walking very far, and of course, turtle-slowly. Her libido, if quantified, would be a large negative number; we haven't "had any relations" since about 1975, when our second son was conceived, and even back then, any "relations" were only for procreating, never for personal satisfaction. Then last summer, she fell to the floor in a revolving door and was hospitalized with a broken Femoral head bone, which required a hip replacement and 5 weeks or so in a care center. Our 23 year-old (adopted) daughter still lives at home, and probably always will; she has FAE, a mental disorder caused by the birth mother's alcohol consumption. She is a help around the house, but will always be mentally a child, but everyone loves her to death.

All right, I've expounded enough oral diarrhea, it's time I got to the point of my diatribe.  How much effort and expense do I need to expend on "health maintenance" and "surgical revision" to repair and rehabilitate my body? I don't want to spend any more money than I already have to attempt repair to this obviously worn-out body. My heirs have greater use for what few dollars I still have than to make the payments on some M.D.'s new Mercedes-Benz or BMW. To be perfectly, bluntly honest, my life stinks. I lost my career 15 years ago, when I was 5 weeks out of the operating room and recovering from one of my spine surgeries, and the company where I worked for over 20 years merged with another, eliminating my department. Finding employment as a gimpy man in his 50's was more difficult than standing a live worm on end, or pushing toothpaste back into the tube... so I was never really employed again. Financially, we manage, but we are considerably below the Federal Poverty Line. Given our physical and financial conditions, travel is out of the question; we do have two grandchildren who live about 600 miles distant, but we seldom see them, since we can't travel and our son has little vacation time to come here. I have little to anticipate in life, except a continuation of the same sort of grey, somber existence. I pray my daily rosary, and do what I can at church... usher and Eucharistic Ministry, usually every Sunday unless I have to handle one of my wife's frequent "problems."  But I'm becoming weary and bored of this continuing vanilla purposeless routine. I really don't want this existence, if it must be dubbed with a name, to continue... and I certainly don't want to put myself or my family into debt to prolong this test.

Maybe I just needed to dump and rant... there's no real answer to this situation... The Big Guy is putting me through the test that Jesus told us to "Pray that you not be put to..."  and He's laughing about it, too.
Reply
#2
(04-07-2010, 07:44 PM)Ponyguy Wrote: Maybe I just needed to dump and rant... there's no real answer to this situation... The Big Guy is putting me through the test that Jesus told us to "Pray that you not be put to..."  and He's laughing about it, too.

God is not laughing about your suffering.  Jesus came and suffered on earth to show us just how much God cares about our suffering.  He cares enough to have taken on human form and share in it with us.  God has transformed suffering into an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  We offer our suffering to Him and He unites it to the suffering of Jesus.

I have a chronic health condition that interferes with living as I would wish.  I can understand a bit feeling that life has little to offer, although my younger children are still young enough that I am still needed.  I'm not sure what I will have to live for when that changes.  But I know that God is not laughing at my situation.  He loves me.  He loves me enough to save me at the cost of the Crucifixion.  And so He loves you too.
Reply
#3
Wow. I just read this. I am so sorry for your troubles. How overwhelmed you must feel. I wish I could offer you more than my prayers.

As for your question, perhaps that really belongs in the theological debate section, but as far as I know, you are not obligated to go through multiple surgical procedures in order to attempt to fix a problem like this. It sounds as though the "treatment" may have become as burdensome as the condition. However, what bothers me is that you feel you have nothing to live for. I hope you at least understand that your life has infinite worth to God.
Reply
#4

Oh my!

I'm a dietitian by training, and all these interventions just make me wonder:  who's feeding you your meals?

Or, is this a family inherited trait?

My prayers for an end to your suffering go with you.


EEWC
Reply
#5
I've had health problems (although mine don't compare with the interventions you've had to endure), don't have health insurance, am not independently wealthy  and have wondered this also.  I've understood that any burdensome treatment  is not deemed necessary for the stewardship of our body we've been given. We only need do the best we can (remember, not burdensome) with the resources we've been given - and we certainly don't need to use the security we provide to our families.
Reply
#6
The basic principle in catholic moral theology is that people are not obliged to take "extraordinary means" to prolong life.  Here is an explanation of the difference between ordinary and extraordinary means:
Quote: 2.1.3. Nature of the 'ordinary' means.

In this way, in the writings of Francisco de Vitoria we find the explicit recognition of the requisites that the tradition has recognized as the foundation of the moral obligatory nature of 'ordinary' means of preserving life:

1. the hope of a reasonable benefit (understood as recuperation of health or the prevention of an avoidable death). The moralists of the tradition usually designate this requisite with the Latin expression, spes salutis, which in contemporary medical literature could respond to — the much debated — criteria of 'benefit' or the scientific-technical 'usefulness' of the measure;20 and

2. the absence of a physical or moral impossibility in its utilization on the part of the individual (designated by the Latin expression quaedam impossibilitas).21

Tradition holds that both conditions must be met simultaneously for a means to be defined as 'ordinary' and — therefore — morally obligatory.22 Thus, among the expressions that the moralists of the tradition utilized to describe the nature of 'ordinary means' are:23

    * "the hope of beneficial results" (spes salutis);
    * "common means" (media communia);
    * "in accordance with the proportion of one's state in life" (secundum proportionem status);
    * "easy means" (media facilia); and
    * "means that are not difficult to obtain or use" (media non difficilia)

It is notable that, to describe the 'ordinary' means, in the classical texts 'negative' formulations are frequently used, in the sense of defining as ordinary means those whose use does not have the typical characteristics of the extraordinary means.24 Given that — as we will see further on — the principal elements that connotate the 'extraordinary' character of a means of preserving life refer to different difficulties that are linked to their use, a recourse that the moralists of the tradition utilize to describe the 'ordinary' character of a means of preserving life was precisely the negation of grave difficulties (physical or moral).

2.1.4. Nature of the 'extraordinary means' and causes of moral impossibility..

Developing this idea, the moralists of the Renaissance25 put forth important efforts to identify the diverse causes of physical and moral impossibility that a person could experience in the utilization of means to preserve life. Thus, for example, analyzing the problem of moral obligation of subjecting oneself to surgical amputation (in the preanesthesia era), Domingo de Soto (1494 - 1570) concludes that the superiors of a religious order could not obligate their subordinates — interfering under the vow of obedience — to resort to interventions that would cause an enormous pain (ingens dolor), so no one would be obligated to suffer such torments (cruciatus) to preserve one's life.26 In this way, the identification of the diverse causes of physical or moral impossibility that a person could experience in utilizing the 'new' medical treatments of the Renaissance served so that the commentators of St. Thomas would develop and necessitate progressively what is contained in the teaching of moral tradition regarding the limits of moral duty to preserve life through the distinction within 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' measures.

Among the possible causes of the physical impossibility, we can mention that the measurement is simply not available or that it cannot be utilized; that the physical conditions of the infirm are incompatible with its use; etc.27 Among the expressions that the moralists of the tradition utilized to designate the causes of the moral impossibility stand out:28

    * "Ultimate effort" (sumus labor) and "extremely difficult means" (media nimia dura);
    * "Certain torment" (quidam cruciatus) y "enormous pain" (ingens dolor);
    * "Extraordinary cost" (sumptus extraordinarius), "valuable means" (media pretiosa) y "exquisite means" (media exquisita);
    * "Severe horror" (vehemens horror).

It is like this that the traditional teaching originated that holds that a means of preserving life that involves at least one of the four elements of 'moral impossibility' for the individual or that is not capable of offering a hope of beneficial results, should be considered 'extraordinary' and — therefore — morally non-obligatory (facultative). On the contrary, those means which are capable of offering the hope of beneficial results (spes salutis) and that do not impose excessive burden on the patient (summus labor), should be considered 'ordinary' and — as a consequence — morally obligatory.

As an anecdotal fact, I just mentioned that it was Domingo Bañez (1528 - 1604) who — in 1595 — introduced the terms 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' in the debate over the moral obligatory nature of the means of preserving life.29 Therefore, it was just at the end of the 16th Century when the moralists began to articulate their teachings through the expressions 'ordinary means' and 'extraordinary means'.30

This is taken from a much longer article which I recommend to anyone interested in this subject:
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/l...ecnum=8772
Reply
#7
Then where do you place commercially-developed [at great cost] supposedly anti-sickness VACCINES?

Blood-tranfusions?

Organ replacement surgery?

Magnetic-resonance scanning?


Ordinary or extra-ordinary?

I dunno.  :pray:
Reply
#8
(04-15-2010, 09:27 PM)No3456 Wrote: Then where do you place commercially-developed [at great cost] supposedly anti-sickness VACCINES?

Blood-tranfusions?

Organ replacement surgery?

Magnetic-resonance scanning?


Ordinary or extra-ordinary?

Extraordinary.  I don't think that one is obliged to do any of those things.
Reply
#9
(04-15-2010, 09:36 PM)JayneK Wrote:
(04-15-2010, 09:27 PM)No3456 Wrote: Then where do you place commercially-developed [at great cost] supposedly anti-sickness VACCINES?

Blood-tranfusions?

Organ replacement surgery?

Magnetic-resonance scanning?


Ordinary or extra-ordinary?

Extraordinary.  I don't think that one is obliged to do any of those things.

Vaccines may be the only exception if they can be shown to be for the common good to stop the spread of epidemic, for example.  Like during the polio outbreaks.
Reply
#10
Thanks, all you kind folks, for offering your viewpoints...

Aside from simply "Staying the Course," I wish there were something more positive I could do, even to perhaps find some sort of change to my perspective on the situation... But, a situation is just a situation, changing one's perspective only changes what you see, it doesn't change the reality.

Something else I learned from a Cardiologist is that the momentary loss of blood supply to the brain (when the heart-lung machine is put into operation during open-heart surgery) can cause all kinds of weird and quirky twists with a patient's memory... as if all the millions of tiny bits of things stored in the patient's memory get stirred and relocated in relation to one another; all the bits of remembered stuff are still there, but not in the same location as before. Consequently, a remembered thought which might have triggered an adjacent thought, will now bring forth a totally unrelated memory. (I hope I explained that correctly... it's a rather difficult concept for me to really understand, myself.)

This situation has really delivered some weird and unusual dream-sequences over the past year or two... I'll suddenly be jarred awake wondering "What the heck was THAT dream/nightmare all about? How the heck did I ever mix those events together in that dream? Of course, this sort of goofy stuff contributes to some sleepless nights, followed by days of dragging my weary body around from one spot to the next.

Anyway, I'm pretty much resigned to swing at the pitches as they come, and play the cards as they're dealt, rather than trying to demand a new pitch or a fresh shuffle and re-deal. The chain of events comprising my personal time-line seems to be following the same script that it always has, so any deviation from that pattern seems quite unlikely. The same "4-F" playbook will continue to rule: "Fear,  Failure, Frustration, and Futility."
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)