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Don't complain ... it could be worse

Sometimes I don’t realize how healthy I am until I get around others my age.


Such was the case last week when I showed up at a rehab center to be evaluated for shoulder pains. I checked in, signed some forms and then sat down in the waiting room to be called.


There were a couple of guys sitting on furniture arranged sort of like a den, with upholstered chairs and sofas forming a square. I was in a chair on the outside but within listening range.


The two men spoke to me when I sat down. Soon another man arrived followed by another, both of whom sat in the square. They all seemed to know each other.


“What’d you do to your knee?” was a question directed at a tall man with a bandage down the front of his right leg.


“I had it worked on,” he said. “I should get the stitches out this week.”


“Yeah, there’ll be more pain but it’ll go away soon.”


“I’m a fisherman so I wanted to get it done before fishing season on the coast,” said Knee. “I hunt, too, but I like fishing more.”


There were questions and answers about the doctor who performed the procedure. “He’s down in Southern Pines.” 


“I don’t know him.”


Then there was talk about strokes and heart attacks and insufficient lungs. I was beginning to piece together that these guys formed a group therapy session for cardiac patients. They were waiting to do exercises in the training room.


“Hey, you’re late,” one of them said to another of the group as he hobbled in.


“Yeah,” the new man replied, “the wife made me late, and I’ve got yesterday to make up, too.”


It was mentioned that someone somewhere had an ankle replacement: “That’s a lot of bones to work with,” one of the men commented. Everyone agreed.


The one with the knee told them that he previously had gone to the doctor about a node on his ankle. “The doc said he could remove it but would have to take the achilles tendon loose to get to it. He said I’d be laid up for at least 12 months. I told him I could stand keeping the node.”


Another, huffing and puffing, said his lungs weren’t doing their job. “I need a transplant but I’m in no condition for that now.” 


“Sorry to hear that,” was the response around the square.


“I went to the emergency room and sat for eight hours to be treated for a stroke,” said the man sitting next to Lungs. “Finally, I asked for help. They said the optimum time to treat it had passed. Oh, well.”


“Yeah, you gotta catch it in time,” said Lungs. “They can be pretty tied up in the emergency room.”


“Tell me ’bout it.”


A young woman came in and pointed a remote at the TV on the wall. Knee thought she was pointing at him. “Oh, I thought you wanted me,” he said. 


“Naw, she’s turning on the TV,” someone corrected him.


Soon the door to the rehab center opened, revealing a host of shiny metal exercise machines. A therapist pushed a patient in a wheelchair through the door and into the lobby.


Meanwhile, the men in the square waited until they were called in for their group session. Then the six or eight guys marched in, cracking jokes and faking falls. They appeared to enjoy having others to share the drudgery that they hope will improve their lives.


Finally, my therapist arrived, welcomed me and showed me into a cubicle to check out my shoulders. We knew each other from a few years ago when he had helped me.


As we went through some exercises, I couldn’t help but realize that aching shoulders are a far cry from heart attacks, strokes and faulty lungs. In a few weeks, my shoulders should be as good as new.


I can only hope the guys in the square can work their way to better health.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.