As a dentist, being a health-care provider has proven to be a valuable asset for me when discussing the inevitable aging process with friends I've known since my teenage years.

We are all getting over 60. That means "What medical condition are you dealing with?" is a regular part of our conversations.

My childhood friend Lenny is dealing with an important position on his "body parts team" - his heart. It's not functioning near where it needs to so his doctor has called in for a new body part.

"You know, not all body parts are the same," he mused. "Some are much more vital to one's life and quality of life than others."

Obviously, we agree that a problem of blood not pumping correctly from your heart goes to the top of the list of priorities.

But Lenny is discouraged that the part they will insert in his heart to help it pump more efficiently will have a line coming out of his chest to a battery pack. So his lifestyle will be restricted in many ways. However, his quality of life from a heart-pumping aspect will improve dramatically.

The line, or lead, will affect his ability to go swimming or take a shower, so he is sort of bummed out. That it will be like that for the rest of his life is an aspect he sees as a limiting factor.

So, quickly, in healthcare-provider mode, I say, "You are so lucky."

Lenny is sort of taken aback by my response so I add, "Just 10 years ago you might not even have had a solution to this problem. The technology has changed so rapidly that what was once a death sentence 10 years ago we now have a solution for - albeit a stopgap solution.

"As one who has followed many advancements in medicine, I would predict that the inconvenience of having the electronic lead coming out of your chest for the rest of your life is probably for five years or less."

Folks need to understand that, in medicine and dentistry at this evolutionary time, it is not only about finding the "cure." With the amazingly rapid advances in technology in health care, treatment is now looked at as the two- to five-year interim solution.

I explain to Lenny that nowadays it is not a biologic problem. It is a matter of getting technology to do what we know can be done and making it work within the human body.

Current communication capabilities help a wide range of folks around the world work on solutions to medical juggernauts, unlike in the past when just a small group of doctors worked to cure a patient.

In short, what used to be an enormous task of fixing the problem in one procedure has turned into making sure we keep the patient alive with the highest quality of life for two to five years until the next solution to the problem is invented.

Enjoy the journey,


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