Longevity House

14 Sep

“It is the provable truth that all of our residents tend to be extremely healthy for their age,” said Dr. Lek Prata to the new supervisor recently appointed by the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Sota Dlenz, despite all her degrees and research work, did not possess the practical experience caring for the elderly that Lek believed was absolutely necessary to run an institution as unique and unusual as the House of Longevity.

She was not at all what he had expected and deserved her reputation of being an insider to custodial care and its many everyday problems.

Dr. Dlenz was a young woman with attractive features that set her apart from the staff of the geriatric residence she was now in charge of. Lek, sitting at his chromium desk, looked across at his now supervisor who had taken command of the facility that morning. Her brunette hair was piled up in a big bun that reflected her distance in years and generation from those living at the House.

“I hope that you and the medical staff realize that we will be going through some major changes in the days and weeks ahead,” she began, continuing to smile as she had when entering Lek’s office. “My intention is to keep all the proven benefits established in the past, my I wish to use the opportunity before me to inaugurate certain new methods and directions that I have formulated in my long period of research. There may be difficulties for some in adjusting to the innovations that I plan, but I want to emphasis that my door will be open to all who wish to comment or make suggestions.

“Only through complete cooperation can we bring this institution to the high plateau it deserves to occupy. We should be like a team, a family where everyone feels a member of something great and important. That is the way for us to reach the heights we deserve to be at.

“What do you think, Dr. Prata? Can we all unite and work together?”

Lek felt a vague, cloudy unease at what she had said to him. “Yes, we must cooperate. Everyone must understand that is needed.”

“Thank you,” she said, all of a sudden heading for the door.

What does she have in store for me and my colleagues? wondered Lek.

Supervisor Dlenz summoned the twenty geriatric physicians of the House of Longevity to a meeting where she presented her plans for the future development of their institution. She spoke to them from a rostrum at the front of the conference hall.

“I thought it would be beneficial for all of us if I outlined for you my guiding philosophy on the problems and difficulties of extending the length of human life.

“Like our entire profession, I admire what has been achieved here for the aged residents over the last several years. You have attained an average life span of 95 years for those under your care. This was done utilizing modern knowledge of nutrition and physiology. The three most important components of this phenomenal progress have been improved diet, aerobic exercise, and meditative yoga. Both mind and body have been healthier than out in the ordinary world. I salute all of you for the brilliant application of innovative biology and psychology that occurred in the buildings of this geriatric community.

“But we cannot afford to rest in routine from the past. Science does not stay still. It is always moving forward. That is my fundamental belief. In my years of research, I have worked in new areas that have long been neglected in geriatrics. It is not a secret that my personal specialty has been in the application of the many amino acids to the burdens of human ageing. I have helped to test scores of these substances both in laboratory settings and out in the field. My trust in their efficacy is unquestioned. I believe in their potential to raise average longevity up to 110.”

Hushed sighs of wonder and surprise arose among the physicians as the speaker paused for breath and looked about at her listeners.

“In the days ahead I shall explain the program I have devised for the utilization of the miraculous amino acids in a new, improved campaign of extending the years of healthy seniors to unprecedented lengths.”

With a confident smile on her youthful face, she left the stage and the hall, leaving Lek and the rest of the staff in dismay and confusion.

“You must talk her out of this mad fancy of hers about aminos,” one geriatrist said to Lek in a low voice when the two were alone in the latter’s office.

Several other doctors made visits to him at different times or saw him on various occasions, making the same kind of request. “You have been here the longest time and have seniority, Lek. It is your responsibility to talk the new superintendent out of this madness she intends to foist upon us. Does she want to ruin what we have achieved here?”

He asked for a meeting with Sota Delenz in her office, his aim to somehow dissuade her from the course she was planning to take.

Lek began in a subtle manner as soon as he was seated opposite her.

“I did not know that your research years were concentrated on amino acids. Were there some that you found to hold unusual promise?”

“Indeed, there were,” she told him, her face almost aglow. “My favorite, the one that I found most beneficial and appropriate for seniors, is glutathione. I call it the anti-ageing miracle. This amino is the most powerful antioxidant that the body can hold and use. It helps to remove dangerous toxins that can be fatal.

“Glutathione prevents damage to components of all kinds of body cells, especially the harm done by free radicals and peroxides. It possesses such enormous power because of its high sulfur content, I happened to discover. There is no other substance like it available, and I intend to give our residents the maximum dosages of it that I can with safety.”

She looked at Lek with supreme assurance and self-confidence. “There is another wonderful, health-producing amino acid that I wish to have all of our residents benefit from. Do you have any knowledge of arginine, Dr. Prata?”

“Yes, of course. That is a substance that facilitates the smooth, rapid flow of oxygen as well as the blood.”

She beamed a radiant smile. “Arginine can be extracted from lupine beans and other legumes. It turns into nitric oxide once in the body, which is the great enemy of any form of inflammation of internal organs. Arginine will widen the blood vessels. It works as a vasodilator that clears a path through clogged arteries. This amino also triggers the production of protein by the body. It can help heal wounds and preserve tissues. Athletes use it in muscle-building.”

“I know that it is an essential amino acid that the body itself cannot synthesize,” added Lek. “The source of it is usually the diet.”

“Or through injection,” said the Supervisor. “I plan to give it to our people that way, along with their Gluthathione.”

Lek felt a swimming sensation in his brain. This was more than he had foreseen or anticipated.

“When will this new system begin?” he asked his boss. “Shouldn’t the staff be prepared with information about what will be expected?”

He stared at her with doubts and questions he dared not express with candor.

“That is an assignment that I will leave to you, since you have been at the House of Longevity longer than any other staff member. I believe that you will be up to the task. Once the change is fully explained, I shall expect you to report the fact to me. Then, we can begin with the amino injections for our longevous patients here.”

Silence fell since neither of them had anything more to say.

Lek excused himself, rose, and left the Supervisor’s office with a mission he despised and feared to carry out as ordered.

A painfully bewilderment seized hold of the staff of the House.

Private, hushed discussions occurred, at first two-by-two, then in expanding groups in secluded spots. There were nearly identical exchanges in all of the small groups of gerontologists.

“We cannot afford to experiment on the residents with amino acids.”

“Yes, of course, but what can we do? She is the Supervisor and has all the authority she needs to carry out her mad plan.”

“This woman threatens to bring ruin to the House of Longevity. What if her substances prove to be harmful to the health of seniors? Her ideas have not been tested in actual life, in the reality of an institution like ours. We have to devise some methods of stopping her before she takes us too far into uncharted waters.”

It was Lek Prata who was the major voice urging caution. “I hope we do not fly off the handle, so to speak. It would be a big error to confront and oppose Dr. Dlenz directly. Our approach to the problem she has presented must be a moderate, well-controlled one. Sober thought alone can overcome the problem she has set for the House.”

“What is there that any of us can do? As long as this woman remains as Superintendent, we and our patients are going to suffer her whims and wild schemes of change,” muttered an angry, frustrated colleague.

“Best that we go about our daily duties and appear to be carrying out her system of amino acid treatment. Let us all sleep on it. With good luck, one of us may conceive a solution to what we now face,” said Lek with a bitter grimace. “My own hope is that we can discover a way of dealing with Dr. Dlenz’s brainchild.”

“What can that be? How can we save the House from her amino campaign?”

Lek pondered a moment. “We must find some way of convincing the trustees that the effect of her program will bring ruin to what we have achieved here so far.”

Lek attempted to distract his mind from the problem presented by the Supervisor’s mania for amino acid therapy by reading medical journals in the evening, after finishing his medical duties with the residents.

The burdensome daytime situation determined that he delved into standard scientific sources and periodicals covering research involved with amino acids. There was no escape for him from the current trouble at the House of Longevity.

Lek was fascinated by the large quantity of these substances. New ones were always surfacing in the research laboratories dedicated to biochemical and pharmaceutical research. He made a long list of all the many aminos that he could find descriptions of. It was surprising to him how long this inventory turned out to be.

The geriatrist went to bed in his apartment that evening unaware that his unconscious mind would be mulling over that list in his sleep.

Lek woke up the following morning surprised that he now had an idea about how to proceed against the Supervisor, using all he had learned from his scattered reading of the previous evening.

“It is important that I see and speak with Dr. Dlenz sometime this morning,” he said to the Supervisor’s secretary in the anteroom where she worked and guarded access to her boss.

It took only seconds for her to make contact and obtain a timely appointment with the one in charge of the institution.

“Come back in half an hour and she will be able to see you, Dr. Prata,” smiled the secretary.

Lek did as instructed, spending a nervous thirty minutes in his office, rehearsing in his mind all that he planned to say to the champion of amino acids.

He arrived on time and was told he could step into the executive office, which he did.

Sota seemed to be busy going through a long report of some sort. She spoke without looking up at her visitor but continuing with what she was doing. “Yes, what is so important this morning?” she sharply asked him.

“An idea came to me overnight over how to bring about a great improvement in the new program that we are about to inaugurate at the House. I felt that I had to outline this new concept to you as soon as possible, and that is why this sudden appearance on my part became necessary. I believe that the idea can possibly guarantee the success of the amino acid approach that is about to go into effect. Our residents and the House itself will be beneficiaries of such an expansion as I envision.”

“Expansion?” said the Supervisor, putting down the report in her hands and giving Lek an inquiring, quizzical stare.

“I have looked into the wide expanse of amino acids beyond arginine and glutathione and am amazed at how great that number has grown. And it is breathtaking what benefits to human health have been traced to this rich treasure of substances and compounds. The potential good that can result for those under our care is immeasurable, nearly infinite. I truly believe that we could win another decade of living for seniors by applying the complete catalogue of easily available aminos. The progress possible is incredible. I have a small list of them that I can show to you at this very moment.”

Lek reached into his jacket pocket and took out a handwritten note he had composed that morning.

“I want you to consider the addition of more amino acids to the two that you have already chosen to be used on our residents for their contributions to senior health. Take, for instance, carnitine.

“That particular amino not only lowers cholesterol but also boosts the functioning of the mitochondrial components of body cells. That is of enormous benefit to the very old. And carnitine is substance that elevates the effects of all antioxidant agents that can be given to our people.

“I would also recommend that we add the amino acid called taurine. It would have a multitude of good effects. Reduction of blood pressure, stronger heart muscles, and the prevention of adhesion between the heart platelets are benefits that we can expect from taurine.

“Another one that I recommend we use is methionine. It is able to provide relief for those who suffer from rheumatism or arthritis, and helps to prevent it for most others.

“Glycine is an important amino because it will regulate the cycle of sleeping and assure needed rest for all who live in the House of Longevity.

“I would especially advise that we add lysine to the list of prescribed amino acids, because it has miraculous ability to inhibit the growth of many of the most common forms of cancer

“And there are three important aminos I think would be useless in maintaining healthy body weight and muscular strength. They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This trio could easily be added to those that I have mentioned already.” Lek stopped a few moments, searching the face of the Supervisor for some sign of reaction. “What do you think? Could we manage to combine all these into one, combined program of amino therapy for elders?” He waited for what her decision might turn out to be.

“You have conceived something original and impressive,” she slowly told him. “It is an outstanding list of positive additions to my own. I must compliment you on your knowledge in this area. You are a person of many surprises, may I say.

“Yes, I will accept all these new factors in my plan. They will enrich and improve what I started with. I have no question in my mind on that.”

She stopped, looking directly into his face and eyes.

“We can work together on the new, expanded amino program, Lek. Can you be here in the office this afternoon after work?”

“Yes, of course I can,” he said with a grin. A voice inside told him he was victorious on what he had decided to convince her to do.

When Lek returned to her office later that day, he found Dr. Dlenz with a deep pile of papers on the top of her chromium desk.

She was standing, and looked at him with a desperate, troubled expression on her face.

“It is all over,” she said with a deep moan. “I called an emergency meeting of our trustees, and they gathered together here in my office.

“I presented them the idea of the increased, broadening scale of amino use. It was what you and I had agreed to earlier. I tried the best I could, but it was no use. They are ignorant and stuck in the past. Anything that is advanced is too much for them to accept or understand. They turned the new program down completely and would have no part of anything like it. I was embarrassed and humiliated. What could I do? My career at the House of Longevity lays in ruins now. So I resigned.”

“Resigned?” said Lek with an audible gulp before and after his question.

“I cannot stay and work in this place without full support and confidence. The trustees are frightened men and women terrified of what has not been done before. I gave them the chance to be pioneers in geriatrics, but they turned down a brave, innovative method. They will have to live with their blindness and stupidity. But I will not be around here to be their insulted servant, not at all”

What could Lek say to that? He decided it was best to stay mum and appear beaten and defeated, sharing her disappointment.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I know you have a lot to do if you are going to leave us.”

Only when he was back in his own office did he consider it safe to let out a laugh.

He had poisoned her amino plan by multiplying and exaggerating its content. His scheme had worked. Was he proud of his tactical method, the way he had trapped and tricked her?

Lek decided to distract his thought from the morality of what he had done to gain his end.

I will never do anything like this again, he told himself, even as he considered whether he should try to win the post of Supervisor for himself.

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