By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. There was that first sickening moment when I thought I was going to pass out. The pain was sharp, insistent, nauseating, irritating. Just a moment ago, I was fine, none better… then, in an instant, I was a swift moving errant projectile launched from the highly polished flagstone stairs to the highly polished flagstone floor on which I lay for an instant, inelegantly sprawled, irked at my situation, gingerly doing what I had been taught to do… and now recovered from the recesses of memory ready for immediate use.
“My name is Jeffrey,” I said just sotto voce. “I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” I said. “I can count to ten,” and did. “I have had a nasty fall. But I have not blacked out.” So far, so good… and thus from immediate fall, the recovery process was already underway, one brassy refrain rising ineluctably to the surface of my jostled intellect: “What a drag it is getting old.”
This line, etched in acid and unwelcome recognition, was the punch line of the Rolling Stones hit “Mother’s Little Helper” released in April,1966 on the album “Aftermath.” Go now to any search engine. If you’re sixty something the last time you considered these lyrics you were in full possession of most every bodily part, element and function. When you said these words then they were an affectation, part of your ardent desire to be world-weary, sophisticated, blase. Now they are nothing more than the God’s honest truth. And don’t we know it.
What came next.
No one hovering around the age of Social Security, or higher, can afford to be cavalier about their health-buffeting, lifestyle changing events. After all, they are a staple, and as we age, the principal source of conversation and social intercourse. Out of our increasingly frail and ill functioning parts and conditions emerge the stories that bore witless our friends, family and even virtually unknown acquaintances. But here’s the great thing: not one of them can say the obvious truth for fear that when they have such (endless) tales to tell, no one will listen to them as they, in turn, bore, too. And so the greatest of the many great conspiracies of aging grows apace, assisted by each of us: we won’t dismiss your stories as mind-deadening dross, if you won’t do that with ours. And it is on this basis I relate my tale.
Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people (including some so young and agile to be paragons of our species) fall down stairs daily. But I am one of only a handful who knows the deal. Thus, with this article comes a chit entitling you to addle my brain with one (but only one) dreary, unending, robustly conceited and mind numbing saga on your accidents, incidents, outrages, pains short termed and chronic, medicaments, physicians, terms, stipulations, coverages (always inadequate and burdened with too high, outrageous deductibles.) Take note… keep this article at hand, for I guarantee you that sooner or later you will yearn and have need for the listening (though never as attentively as you desire) ear which we will demand by force majeure if not given by more diplomatic means.
Meet Dr. Robert Ebert, a man far ahead, who aimed to keep these stories as short and infrequent as possible.
Unless you are a Harvard-trained physician, Dr. Ebert’s name may be unfamiliar to you. But the effects of his great insight into the proper role and function of medicine are everywhere around us and as essential to understanding our stressed-out, pill- riven, unhealthy epoch as the computer or the Internet. Ebert was not merely a brilliant physician but a man who changed the entire lifestyle of all people who know that life without health is a cruel hoax.
He addressed this issue from the acme of established medicine, Harvard Medical School where he was appointed Dean by Harvard President Nathan Pusey in 1965. His assignment was to keep people, all people, healthy not merely to treat the sick more efficaciously. In short, the message delivered by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was Ebert’s; viz. that you cannot conceive, grow, and maintain a vibrant, healthy society on pills. I don’t know whether Dr. Ebert, Jackson Professor of Clinical Medicine at the medical school, was a fan of Jagger and company… but he would have recognized them as kindred (albeit boisterous and outrageous) spirits. The line about politics making strange bedfellows comes immediately to mind.
” ‘Things are different today today,’ I hear ev’ry mother say Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day.”
Exactly. It was this “deal with the effects, rather than the problem” mentality that the Rolling Stones pilloried in language both affronting and poetic that Dr. Ebert knew had to be changed for the Great Republic — and all others — to prosper. And it was Nathan Pusey who gave him the chance — and the necessary start-up funds to begin.
I imagine these two great men met in Pusey’s office inside the Yard just a few blocks from where I’m writing you. Ebert would have presented his report; Pusey, a man of big if soft-spoken visions, would have closely listened and questioned, for Ebert was his considered choice to change the world and billions of lives. At the end, there would have been complete understanding, a handshake and a feeling quietly shared by both that here was a project worth doing, worthy of them, of Harvard, of the Great Republic, and so it was…
Thus Harvard Community Health Plan was instituted in 1969, the year I entered Harvard. Without knowing so, without understanding just how revolutionary these men and their cosmic vision, I became as a patient one of the first to experience the force of their insight… I have been a member ever since, a bit of history, glad not only for the help I’ve received but for the opportunity to assist them since patients are members, not just to be treated, but consulted, asked, taught and always considered; an idea of immense consequence…
Such a brilliant idea, so timely, so useful, so endorsed must have gone from triumph to triumph, right?
Absolutely not. Quite the reverse.
Ebert and his colleagues expected 10,000 patients. But only 88 came; I may have been one of them. In short this grand vision had everything going for it… but adherents. Ebert came to know there is no royal road for success. People had to be sought out, counseled, advised and even admonished to take their first tentative steps to an entirely new idea — wellness. Even for such excellent things, excellent marketing is required. Now, after years of such marketing, several amalgamations, reorderings and renamings, Dr. Ebert’s epochal idea — now called Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates — has about 495,000 members. I am still one of them, a kind of senior patient, involved since its very inception.
My ankle, warning, “Doctor, please, some more of these.”
As for me, I’d been advised by Dr. Bonnie Hersh, neurologist at Dr. Ebert’s original Kenmore Square practice, Boston. She told me I had reached the age (65) where many folks have balance issues. I certainly do. And so, had I made holding hand rails an every day, rather than episodic, thing, I should have suffered less in body (no sprained ankle festooned with colorful bruises) and amour propre. But then, I would not have been able to extoll the idea and development of health maintenance organizations, so helpful to so many. “Doctor, please, some more of these”!
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today at http://www.Worldprofit.com
Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.