Cornbread Thinks: Maintenance

What is the most expensive kind of maintenance? Deferred. The cheapest? Preventative. The easiest to put off? Regular. The most ignored? Ourselves. I am tired of being serious. Pay attention.

With our animals, we are nothing but responsible. Getting out of a warm bed with the love of your life (some mutt you found) and going to the barn at 2 a.m. is normal. Adjusting blankets at midnight? Normal. Loping horses at 4:30 a.m.? Normal. Putting up and washing a load of wraps at 10:37 p.m.? Normal. Picking stalls? Normal. Filling water buckets? Normal. Changing the oil in the truck, checking the tire pressure and packing everything needed to go haul? Done.

Making an appointment for a yearly physical for you? Unlikely. Do you realize that you have a responsibility to the rest of us to do this – to take care of yourself? When one of us is suffering, are you completely unaffected? I know I’m not, and I think you are the same.

The human being is complicated, and harder to understand than Chinese arithmetic. There are billions of us and no duplicates. The range of critical numbers is wide. To get a picture, let’s say normal is between 800 and 1,200. You start cross firing and go to the vet. He flips you to the vampires. Your number comes back 1,042 – inside the normal range so never mind. But if you had been getting yearly checks, the vet would have known your normal was around 873. The 1,042 would have turned into a red flag. The single best tool your vet has is knowing your normals. The best weapon is early detection.

Our delusion comes from our daily lives. We are active, fit, happy, doing physical things like we have for decades. We look at the “sluggos” and get pretty smug. Most of them couldn’t hang two hours of our 14-hour days. It’s way too easy to feel like a superhero. Unfortunately, we have the same risks that the real world does.

Some diseases are built in through genetic predisposition. Heart disease and some cancers are examples. Breast cancer in women has a high occurrence in bloodlines. The fact that we are healthy gives us margins much larger than those couch potatoes. It is a lot longer between a quarter-tank and empty in us than “them.” Too many times, by the time we experience symptoms, it is deep into the fourth quarter, certainly past halftime.

Quitting is not in us either. Coupled with our being tougher than regular people makes us prone to a long, drawn-out, expensive, painful fight to a hard end. I want for a mountain mule to pitch me straight off to the Pearly Gates, right at Saint Peter’s feet. I hate hospitals; people die there.

Like it or not, we have a responsibility to take as good of care of ourselves as we do our horses, barns and rigs. You need a regular doctor who is as easy to call as your vet. First things first, get your basic physical, including an EKG (an electronic snapshot of your heart function). A stress test is better. Starting at 50 (35 with a family history), get a colonoscopy. The pre-purchase exam on Buttermilk saved her life.

Many of you are going to dismiss this. Many will agree, but not take action. The first argument is going to be cost. It’s not cheap. A pre-purchase on a horse is about $700. That does not stop many from doing them. They will live to regret that “cost-saving” idea. If you skip the pre-purchase, you can end up with a $50,000 pasture ornament.

The next excuse is our egos. Who wants to go around talking or hearing about colonoscopies? It’s embarrassing. Remember, it is not as embarrassing as the treatment for colon cancer. Pick your poison. Choose wisely.

One last thing. Self-induced diseases are particularly hard to take, and a very real conflict for your blood family. They are heartbroken for you and furious at you for the huge burden. And scared. Overindulgence in food and alcohol are the two biggest.

I know it is blasphemy, but tobacco is terrible. If anybody does not understand this is high risk, then you are just a fool. Tobacco is the most powerful of addictions and hardest to quit. It’s nearly impossible without the whole family working together. It’s not a do-it-yourself project. It would be treated like heroin if it weren’t already here.

Cornbread Thinks: Your health is a community responsibility.