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Geriatric Interview

GERIATRIC INTERVIEW

Ernesto’s Story

Recently I had a chance conduct an interview with one of my best friends grandfather. His name is Ernesto Diaz and at the time of the interview he was 64 years old. Nowadays he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife Maricela, 56, and two grown-up children, aged 32 and 29.

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Ernesto was born in 1951 in Santiago de Cuba. Most of his life he lived in Cuba, however, fairly recently he immigrated to the United States with his family. The first topic of our conversation was his parents. He seemed very joyful and a little bit nostalgic when he was telling me about them. His father came up in the world as a baseball player, while his mother was a nurse in a hospital in Santiago de Cuba. Although he was the only child in his family, he was not spoiled. Moreover, one of his hobbies was helping his peers in solving their problems. His childhood was full of memories, but the most vivid one was when he was punished by his mum and grounded for 3 weeks. The reason was giving 100 peso without asking first to one of neighboring kids, who wanted to buy a toy railway. Many of his friends thought he was a kind of Mother Teresa of that time. No matter what problems they had, he tried and almost always managed to find a solution for them, even if it seemed like a dead-end at first.

He was one of the best pupils at his school, a role model, as some of the teachers used to call him. Not only he was keen on almost all subjects, but he also took part in sports competitions that were organized by his school. Although he was always busy with studying, he never revealed that he was tired. No one had ever seen him crying or complaining. That was because he always felt like he had no rights to complain, because there were a lot of children in the world who lived in worse conditions than he did. After finishing school, he entered the University of Santiago de Cuba where he studied medicine. Lecturers took him as a very talented student and he went on demonstrating his knowledge, skills and personal qualities.

After graduating the university he knew for sure that he had to help people, so he started applying to every hospital he could for a job. He was a surgeon, and (as I can judge from multiple diplomas on the walls in the room in which the interview was held) quite a successful one. His desire to help people did not disappear as he got older, but rather became even stronger. So luckily for him, one hospital gave him a chance to improve himself. Soon it was obvious that he became an irreplaceable surgeon in the whole city. Many people wondered how he could achieve such high results when he has so young for a doctor.

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At 24 he married a beautiful woman who he fell in love with as soon as he saw her. She was studying economics at the same university. They had a small wedding ceremony with only the closest relatives invited, because neither of them enjoyed big parties. Eight years later, Maricela gave birth to a very beautiful girl. And since then their life had never been the same. Three years after that another girl was born, who was just as beautiful as the first one. They called them Analena and Anesia.

As the time passed, girls were becoming older and older. Soon they went to school, and then enrolled in a university. They both graduated University of Santiago de Cuba, just like their parents did. However, instead of helping his children to find a proper job, Ernesto made an unexpected decision to move to the USA. In 2007, they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. As I found out from the interview, he thought at the time that his daughters would have much more opportunities here. And, according to him, it was the best decision he had made in his life.

Analena holds a law degree, so it did not take her long to find a good job. Anesia studied natural science at university and it appeared to be a little bit harder for her in the USA. Soon she realized that it was not her dream profession, so she started studying medicine in the College of Medicine of the University of Cincinnati. She decided to follow her father’s footsteps. It took her 5 years to become an anesthesiologist and in 2013 she finally found a job in the Good Samaritan Hospital, where everybody admired her as a woman who was brave enough to change her career and become a doctor.

Now Ernesto, aged 64, is retired.

The second part of our interview was dedicated to his health condition. In general, he told me that he feels fine, but later on he admitted to having a backache, which he told me was due to his age. Being a doctor in the past, he told me how important it is to take care of our health, so that we do not neglect any ailments. That is why he visits his physician on a regular basis, approximately once every six months. So far nothing has interfered with his medical health. He exercises every morning, keeps a healthy lifestyle and avoids high-fat diet and unhealthy food.

Despite this, he often suffers from a mild hypertension, so he has to take Thiazide diuretics on a regular basis in order to prevent deterioration of his health. In order to reduce his backache and to help move easily he was prescribed Ibuprofen and he should take it once a day. So far he has taken only two medications regularly and neither of them has resulted in xerostomia.

I asked Ernesto what helped him improve heath except for eating healthy food. And I was quite surprised when he told me that nothing much. The only thing you need to pay attention to is your level of energy. He told that it was necessary to have an adequate amount of sleep in order to stay fit. Once you did not sleep well, your body becomes exhausted, and, as a result, it cannot resist viruses and other diseases.

However, I was quite surprised when I asked Ernesto about his dental health. He told me that his teeth were not in the greatest condition, because he has always been afraid to go a dentist. He confessed that he always cuts it close when it comes to treating his teeth. This is one the things he argues about with his wife the most. He has lost 5 or 6 teeth because it was too late to treat them. The last time he visited his dentist was 3 years ago, which I see a little bit odd for such a responsible man. Nothing really interferes with his dental health, except for, possibly, only one thing. As he told me later, he is a big fan of chocolate. His wife often hides chocolate bars from him to prevent tooth damage. He told me that he brushed his teeth twice a day: in the morning and in the evening. And, as he says, that is enough dental care for him. So far in his life Ernesto hasn’t suffered from any oral diseases. Nevertheless, he sometimes feels oral pains, but they are not severe and come out after eating a chocolate bar. He has once been to a dentist because of such pains and he has been told to examine his cavity more often in order to prevent them.

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He is not edentulous, although, as I have mentioned before, he has already lost some teeth because of his negligence. When asked about services he would like to see provided at a dental office he came up with a funny answer. He told me he wished all dentists in the world were less angry, gentler and caused less pain to their patients. He gave this childish answer in a very serious manner.

He has medical insurance and he does not pay for visiting physicians or other doctors. But, unfortunately, his insurance does not cover dental services. Nevertheless, as Ernesto told me, it was not a reason why he did not visit a dental professional often. The last time he went to the dentist was three years ago in order to replace his missing tooth with a prosthesis. He did not want to have it at first, but then he realized it would make chewing easier. He takes it off when he does not need it and puts it back on when he wants to eat something. In order to maintain it he needs to take it off after every meal and clean it with water in order to remove all the remaining food. Also, he has to clean it with a tooth brush and paste at least once a day, usually in the evening, before going to bed.

As I understood, Ernesto always seemed strong and confident in his actions. However, during the interview, he confessed to me the biggest fear of his life: loneliness. All his life he has been surrounded by parents, friends in need, his wife, children and colleagues. So he cannot imagine living without them and the thought of dying alone sometimes cannot leave his mind for a long time. He was ashamed to tell this earlier, because of the fear of disappointing me and other people. But, to be honest, it should make people proud of him even more, because he admitted that having their support is one the most important things in this life.

Ernesto Diaz was a really easy person to speak to. I did not have to force him to give answers. He was quite open and seemed very pleased that somebody is interested in his life. The main conclusion of the interview with Ernesto Diaz is that every person is unique, and everyone should consider his inner voice. Sometimes it is necessary to make an important, but difficult decision in order to be a successful person. This man taught me a lot during the two and a half hours of our interview. I understood that people should help each other and should not be afraid of the changes in their lives. What is more, people must never forget who they are and what their destination in this world is. They should always follow their hearts and be sure that one day they will reach the sheer delight because of what they are doing. No matter how old a person is, he/she should always take care of his/her health and avoid a neglectful attitude towards it. One of the phrases that Ernesto told me at the end of our conversion, which I totally agree with, is that people are born to be happy and healthy and not to suffer from pain and illnesses because of their negligence.

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