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Call Him Joe
Photo: Nikolay Mamluke
His real name is unimportant. Joe was very important to his wife of 25 years, though. When her health was bad—bad enough that she could not work—Joe made sure that she got the treatment she needed. He often took time off in the middle of the day to take her to a doctor’s appointment downtown. He always made up the time because Joe was like that.

He was also important to those of us who worked with him. When you are in a position where lives depend upon your engineering judgment, being clever is not enough. You also need to be reliable. Joe was. When he said something was so, you knew it was. He had checked it six ways to Sunday first.

The only thing that Joe did not take care of, was himself. He never saw doctors. That took too much time. He had hypertension—high blood pressure—and ignored it. Once he put off a root canal. The dentist he went to wanted Joe to see a doctor about his blood pressure first. Joe found another dentist to do the work. Joe said he “felt fine.”

Didn't Look "Fine"

Except Joe did not look “fine.” Lately he had been dragging. Always glum over the many years I knew him, recently he had gone from gloomy to grumpy. The rest of us in the small group he led urged him to slow down and take more time off. He kept insisting he felt fine.

At the start of one long weekend, he had a stroke. It happened while he was asleep. He had taken a vacation day, so no one expected to hear from him until Monday. By the time work resumed on Monday, he was on life support. He died without regaining consciousness.

Joe was in his mid fifties. Two others in our work group are also males in their fifties. What happened hits home. It has caused us to look at our lifestyles again. My doctor has recommended I lose some weight. Suddenly that has become much more important.

The saddest part? It could have been avoided. Had Joe seen a doctor in the months before his stroke—even up to the afternoon before it happened—he would likely be alive and aware today.

Why didn’t he see a doctor? I can guess. I have been there. He did not want to miss work. He had more important things to do. He did not want to find that anything was wrong. He was afraid he would end up in the hospital. The same excuses that I and millions of other fifty-something males use to avoid the doctor. Because we are afraid.

Are you another Joe? Do yourself a favor. Conquer that fear. See a doctor. Tell yourself that it is time for a routine checkup anyway. Then do what the doctor says. Don’t have the time? Make the time. Please. Or like Joe, you may find yourself out of time entirely.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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