Struck Down by What?


Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

A weathered rancher of my acquaintance stubbornly refused  to join a group of church friends who “enjoy” bad health. A woman of few words, she explained her absence from services the previous Sunday.

“I was struck down by the flu,” she stated, leaving it at that.

Would that our health conditions be so succinctly categorized these days. Now, there are strains, distresses, aches, pains and assorted illnesses that not only have names, but typically are reduced to abbreviations and sometimes even numbers. It’s a mistake to try to keep up; much blame is attributed to COVID.

Dr. Don Newbury

I surrender all, having been “stove up” since Christmas with respiratory issues that may seem minor to you and little more than that to me.

All I know is that coughing, wheezing and congestion stretched over three weeks, and my wife’s similar symptoms hung around longer.

We’ve generally much stayed indoors. A neighbor thinks we’ve been “struck down” by a new set of abbreviations. “Probably the RSV stuff that’s going around,” she said.

Until lately, “RSV” was totally foreign to me. (Without the “S,” of course, “RV” seems far removed from illness, with the allure of being “on the road again.”)

I could have left it right there, but later in the day, I spoke on the phone with my friend Paul Butler. He and his wife Virginia had endured similar symptoms, and Paul joked (I think) that they were victims of that “RSVP” disease.

Maybe he wasn’t kidding. He may have known that “RSV” stands for “respiratory syncytial virus,” adding the “P” for Paul intentionally to personally identify with the disease.

This set me to thinking about former terms concerning illnesses. We had “bad colds,” croup, crud, upset tummies, sprains, strains, headaches and other names that rarely exceeded two syllables, and often were just one. Abbreviations weren’t needed.

An age-old condition remains colorful. The guy was “rode hard and put up wet,” an expression better understood by non-urban folks.

There were other expressions in a general category, “running off at the mouth.” These were usually attributed to political figures who didn’t know when the shut up.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott probably would like to retract his “tweet” bragging that he could kick better than Dallas Cowboy Brett Maher, who muffed five straight point-after kicks during his team’s two final games.

The gov’s attempt at humor not only fell flat, but also offended others confined to wheelchairs.

Maybe someone stole our leader’s identity. That could be the story he’ll stick to. Whatever, Dallas has joined Houston in having a problem.

Now, I return to the original premise that medical ID’s are galloping ahead of us.

In a recent Dallas Morning News edition, facing pages caught my eye. One led with a major headline, asking readers if they’ve had heart failure; the other pointed to “pacing” as the key for “long COVID.”

I read the one about heart failure first, since I’ve had four bypasses and a mitral valve repair–and later implantation of a stent, defibrillator and pacemaker–in 1998 and 2021, respectively.

The ad cited familiar symptoms, suggesting that I could be saddled with a condition called “ATTR-CM.” I’ll ask my cardiologist about it, since transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy–the abbreviation spelled out–sounds like something I already have.

When I inquire, he may wax rhetorical, asking why I’m blinking incessantly. If he does, I’ll urge him to relax and take a few deep breaths, informing him that my blinking serves only to signify my disbelief about “long COVID.” I didn’t even know the disease can be measured.

Returning home, I’ll mull over prescribed medications and whether my exercise regimen is “set” on the lowest possible bar.  Maybe I’ll reconstruct the old joke about a guy undergoing sedation prior to surgery. “This makes you feel like you do when you’re drunk,” he said. “I wouldn’t know,” the anesthesiologist replied. “I’ve never had anesthesia.”

Dr. Newbury was a longtime university president who continues to write weekly and speak regularly throughout Texas. Phone: 817-447-3872. Email:
Facebook: Don Newbury

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