You’re going to think I’m out of my mind when I tell you that I take rat poison every day of my life. I’m serious, and the good news is that I’m still living to tell about it! You see, when I was around twenty years old I had a go-to-college physical and at that time the doctor noticed that my heart had an irregular beat. He didn’t seem concerned, and I felt fine.
Years passed. Have you noticed, unless we hurt somewhere we assume we’re OK. I’d forgotten the doctor’s finding until one day when I was visiting with an old college classmate who had become an Internist. We hadn’t seen each other in many years, and he said offhandedly, “Dick, let’s go down to my office and we’ll check you out.” He too noticed the irregular heart beat and diagnosed me as having atrial fibrillation. So now it had a name.
He explained that there’s an electrical impulse that gives the signal for the heart to contract. It comes from the sinus node, which is the heart’s natural pacemaker. But in the case of atrial fibrillation, there are volunteer cells that also send electrical signals. That adds up to too many signals, and as a result the atria beats so fast it can’t effectively empty itself. The bottom line is that it can cause a stroke.
My friend informed me that at my age I had a 1% chance a year of having a stroke. To keep this from happening, he suggested I consider taking Warfarin—here is where the rat poison thing comes from. I knew that name Warfarin. Way back when we were kids, we used to kill pesky rodents by putting out bait impregnated with Warfarin. The chemical basically eliminates the blood’s clotting system and the animal bleeds to death on the inside.
Based on what the doctor was telling me, I had to make a decision. Although the 1% risk of a stroke seemed low, it was real. On the other hand, I didn’t like the idea of taking rat poison every day for the rest of my life nor of having to go to the lab every month to check to make sure the blood isn’t getting too thin.
Now I’m going to cut to the chaise. As I considered what it do, it occurred to me that the day I have a stroke, God forbid, whose life would be ruined? Mine? Yes, but really the person whose quality of life would be messed up would be my wife, Betty’s. She would have to call 911, and then after I got back from the hospital with only half of my body working—you’ve seen people who’ve had strokes—she’d have to be the one to push me around in a wheel-chair, feed me, bathe me, and all the rest.
Do you see where I’m coming from? I owe it to my wife not to have a stroke—at least to do all I can to avoid it.
Yes, there are people who say, “It’s my life, I’ll live it the way I want to. You have to die some day.” You may have even thought that yourself. Listen, it’s not our life to live any way we want. We owe it to the people who love us to live as healthfully as we can.
I suppose it’s fair to say that we deserve what we do to ourselves, but our families don’t deserve what we do to ourselves. Our health—or lack of it—is not just about us, it’s about everyone our life touches, especially our family.
One day my wife and I were shopping in a pharmacy. We were about to go to the check-out counter when Betty said, “I think I’ll get some chewing gum.” I asked her if she were going to buy the sugarless variety.
“No,” she answered, “why do you ask?”
“You’d better buy the sugarless variety,” I replied, “because your teeth belong to me!”
OK, that’s pushing it! Do the right thing. Somebody loves you.