The 101s

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

I came across an article today, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/06/how-to-talk-to-someone-who-is-dying) not because I’m thinking about death and dying but because I’m getting a lot emails from people in difficult situations.   I think this article is fine but I wanted to add one more thing for caretakers, family and friends to think about which is; let the patient decide how and if she or he wants to know the truth.

In the case of my husband, he knew, but he didn’t want to “know”.  That means he didn’t want to talk about it, and he didn’t want to hear the words, and hopefully he could also not see in our faces that we knew.

His doctor wanted to tell him when he felt we had come to the end of the road and my husband’s family agreed with the doctor.  But I kept saying, please don’t.

Chris and I had an understanding: I was the one who took care of his medical issues, asked the questions and listened to the answers.  He didn’t want to be part of it simply because by not “knowing” he could continue to fight and he could live, whatever life he had left, the best way possible.

Chris had been in the ICU and one of his doctors actually thought he would make it out.  But to everyone’s amazement not only Chris was moved to the regular floor four days later but he surprised everyone by getting up from his bed and walking the halls of Cedars to the point that his nurses were begging him to stop.  A week after being admitted into the ICU, I was driving Chris home.  That was Chris, never giving up.  And to him not hearing the words: you are going to die, allowed him to continue fighting till his last day.

I remember a family meeting with his doctor where I said something like “I know letting the patient know everything is medicine 101 today, but my husband – the only one we should be concerned about – does not subscribe to this system.

So I finally was able to strike a deal with Chris’ family: “Let’s just ask him if he wants to be part of the next meeting and if he wants to know what has been discussed and what will be discussed”: his answer to all these questions was a loud and clear “no”.  After that, the subject was never brought up again.

On August 13th 2008, I helped Chris get dressed and find a pair of sandals that his swollen feet would still slide in, and drove him to a restaurant where he wanted to have lunch with my nieces.

On August 14th at 5am he felt ill and was taken to the ER.

On August 15th at 2am, he passed away the way he chose to; fighting and being at home till the very last moment.

So when speaking or caring for people in terminal situations listen to them and do what they want and need not what others think is right.

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