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Managing your health

During the past few weeks, it has been reported in the media that Barbadians ought to be more aware of their personal health needs and of the warning signs their bodies give from time to time. These signs, according to medical authorities, are critical indicators –– similar to the warning lights on the dashboard of a vehicle –– that one of the components of this very sophisticated engine, which is the human body, is in need of servicing.

Our failure to heed the warning lights on the dashboard may lead to an expensive maintenance bill when the engine finally breaks down. Ignoring the signs from our body’s dashboard may be even more expensive and traumatic.

Have have we become so caught up in the vagaries of social and financial survival that we have forgotten how to live? Is the need to manage our financial affairs taking precedence over managing our health? Is the job more important than our health? Where does one draw the line between economic prosperity, career and personal health care?

There are many who will say that without money you cannot pay the doctor bills; that without a job, you cannot provide for your family. There are those who will ask: what does it matter if you are as healthy as a horse but still unemployed?

Are you overweight, always feeling tired, ignoring need for sleep, eating while driving to another appointment or the second job? These are all valid questions and concerns, but are they realistic personal concerns that should be ignored?

According to medical family practitioners, maintaining one’s health should be your first priority, and no amount of personal wealth can or will replace a healthy and well managed body. Family practitioners have long held the view, that social and financial pressures have been overtaking personal health care priorities, and it appears that the need to work long hours, up to the point of placing one’s health at severe risk, has become one of the leading indicators of job-related health issues.

In their opinion, it was not the job function that was causing the problem, but the extended hours, poor eating habits, no personal exercise routine, and ignoring of the warning signs.

Two years ago, I wrote about my personal experience of ignoring these signs. Two years ago, I wrote about what happens when one ignores these signs, and the price I paid for such fallacy. My ignoring of these signs placed me in a hospital for one week, got me restricted activities for over three months, and a daily regimen of pills and quarterly doctor visits.

I, like many others had suffered a heart attack, which according to my doctors, though minor in effect, was still a very significant indicator that something was very wrong with my routine. I have since returned to my routine, but with modifications in a number of areas that I took for granted.

Two years ago, I attributed every health complaint or warning sign to stress, and simply said that once “things settled down” that I would “get some rest and take a vacation”; “go and cool out somewhere and forget everything for a little while”. To some extent I did “cool out” but the total abandonment of my original routine was a little more difficult to achieve.

One of the factors that surfaced was that while people who had the same commitment to the “job” as I did were not difficult to find, some had made it known that to take on more responsibilities might require further increase in financial overheads. This brought home the fact often voiced by businesses that everything in life has a price; increasing the responsibilities of the people who work with you does not come cheap or free.

The recent announcement of the passing of two officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force and one volunteer

first responder of the Barbados Roving Response Team –– Inspector Anderson Bowen and Sergeant David Young of the Royal Barbados Police Force, and RT14 Noel Pilgrim of the Barbados Roving Response Team –– once more highlights this issue of personal health.

I am under no circumstances speculating about cause of death of these individuals, as no official announcement has been made as to the cause; but it is safe to say that they did not die while either on duty as police officers or as first responders, but off duty as private citizens.

I knew the three individuals who are now gone; two of them were my friends; we shared many moments together both on and off the field. All three of them, were hard- working committed persons, to the job and family, and their presence will be sorely missed. Their absence will always serve as a reminder of the mortality of man; and that personal friendships earned either through the job or by living in a community are very precious.

The impact on the families of our comrades, and the departments they represented has been traumatic and has served as an additional indicator of placing one’s health above all other priorities. Their passing once more highlights the fact that anyone can “be here today and gone tomorrow”; that what we do while here on this earth is far more important that what we leave behind. The positive and constructive actions that one takes are far more important than the wishes and hopes that were left unanswered.

It is far more important to be seen living as a father, close friend, valued employee and as a positive role model in the eyes of your own children and your community, than to be remembered only for your uttered wishes and hopes voiced while having a “drink with the fellas across the road”.

Our time on this earth is not unlimited, but why cut that time in half by neglecting the warning indicators of personal health? Why must we let the material gains overshadow the simplicity of sharing a weekend with family and friends? Why further contribute to the “economic prosperity” of the family doctor by ignoring your own personal welfare and health

for the job and the money; when in the end you will have to leave it behind?

This column has always promoted health care issues and emergency management concerns. Today, my condolences are extended to the families of our friends and colleagues, whose presence will still be with us each time we take to the field.

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