Persona

Persona

 

The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.

George Orwell

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my persona. Though the definition may encompass fictional literary characters, I’m including the definition of one’s public image or adopted social role rather than one’s true self.

The word comes from Latin, referring to the masks used by actors to project a character or meaning. Movie stars do this. Recently, Becky and I again enjoyed the beautiful and celebrated 1985 movie “Out of Africa.” Meryl Streep is a gifted actress who can project the persona of her character like few others. However, her true self is likely something else.

I graduated from medical school in 1975 and since then I have worn the doctor persona rather than the mask of a tragedian. In fact, for most of my life that persona perhaps defined more of me than my true self.

But that was then and not now. As I think back over my life and medical career, I am not the character I once portrayed. I am now fully retired from medical practice, though I still think like a doctor, but this may be waning. My medical license remains active, but my medical persona is diminishing as my new identity is rising.

In times past I might have defined myself foremost as a doctor. Fortunately, I married a fine woman who made up the difference for my shortcomings and absences from kids and family. My partner enabled me to practice medicine and give to others. The Ferguson team maintained a good batting average raising children, participating in church and making our marriage a success.

In some respects, “The Doctor Is In” is becoming a misnomer. My persona is changing. Now, more people know me as a columnist than ever knew me as a doctor. And increasingly, I identify as a writer rather than a physician.

What defines a person? Is it one’s public image or is it one’s composite self? I believe it is the latter. However, I have a friend who sometimes asks me medical questions. We are close, but she recognizes the doctor persona aspect of me. She prefaces her questions saying, “Now Jim, put on your medical hat for a moment.”

I received a fine medical education which included a baptism of fire, caring for frightfully ill patients. The normally thoughtful internist does not have the luxury of contemplation during a resuscitation. In a crisis you fall back on your training and established algorithms. Many times, I’ve experienced almost out of body awareness of the situation and observed myself working to save my patient.

I now have an evolving concept of persona. I don’t believe you can project and successfully sustain a public image that does not rest on a composite of foundational principles. A charlatan will eventually be discovered because their house of cards is built on shifting sand and will eventually crumble. Jesus said so and history demonstrates this truth.

My readers know more of me than I know of them. And though most have not met me, you know the aspects of my true self projected in this column. Honest writing comes from the heart and one’s convictions, and is as palpable as a swollen knee. I am a devout Christian. I love my wife of forty-seven years. I love my two girls and worship my grandchildren. I am a conservative and patriotic American. And yes, I still put on my doctor’s cap occasionally.

Over the years I have written about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) at least twice, but not recently. Previous essays have discussed the various causes of dementia, diseases that can mimic AD and tests which aid in the diagnosis. Tragically, the scourge of dementia affects many patients and families, and unfortunately this disease now stares Americans in the face every day.

It pains me to see the destruction being orchestrated in our country. I don’t blame Joe Biden; he is just a useful tool of American-hating leftists and ideologues who covet power. To anyone with eyes, iPOTUS is impaired.

FLK is a pediatric acronym used to describe a child’s abnormal appearance suggestive of a genetic disorder. Think of the kid with the banjo in the movie Deliverance. The term is not pejorative, but descriptive. Be honest; we all form snap opinions of others by their appearance. Doctors sometimes jokingly describe someone as a JAR (“just ain’t right”).

I do not know Joe Biden, but his persona is just not right. And to use the Sarah Palin analogy, no matter how much lipstick the media de jour puts on a pig, it’s still piggish. Internist Marc Siegel reported that Biden previously suffered a brain hemorrhage and had two procedures to repair brain aneurysms. We talk a lot about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) associated with football injury. Biden’s medical history is comparable and his lifetime risk of dementia is at least 50%.

The risk of dementia is one thing, but repeatedly forgetting important names and dates, difficulties with speech and recalling American creeds, along with recurring inappropriate remarks and creepy interchanges with young girls are signs of frontal and temporal lobe dysfunction known as cognitive impairment. I have seen many patients with dementia who display cognitive impairment and inappropriate behavior which causes problems in their activities of daily living (ADL).

The brain is a complex organ composed of 100 billion interconnected neurons. When working together, thought arises. Some areas of the brain control movement and coordination, others manage breathing, heart function and digestion, and other areas memory and thinking. Humans have prominent foreheads as compared with, for instance, a cat. This frontal lobe area is associated with the complex thinking we recognize as sentience. The frontal lobe and the temporal lobe area (associated with memory storage) are damaged in Alzheimer’s Disease.

In these extremely dangerous times, it is my observation that America has perhaps elected a demented placeholder of a president. I feel sorry for Joe Biden. I feel sorry for America. I fault Biden’s wife and handlers for putting him and America in such a difficult situation.

And those with eyes will see and those with courage will resist the deceit and darkness.

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