In my last column, I wrote about sitting down with family members to fill out my Advanced Directives—or End of Life Wishes.
Although I’m in good health now, I’ve seen life turn on a dime. I don’t want to leave my family in the dark as to my final wishes.
Filling out forms has never been my strong point. The fine print in Advanced Directives and Living Wills seemed overwhelming.
So before I put pen to paper, my family and I divided my potential illnesses into these categories:
1. I am conscious and able to make decisions; OR
2. I am unconscious or in a coma and unable to make decisions.
POTENTIAL FOR RECOVERY:
1. I have a serious but treatable condition; OR
2. I am in a terminal/vegetative condition with no chance of improvement/recovery.
As our family discussed these categories, my friend Bob’s illness came to mind.
Three years ago, Bob, a healthy 74 year old, was admitted to a hospital for routine surgery.
Neither Bob nor his physicians knew that Bob had a rare genetic condition which caused a severe, adverse reaction to anesthesia.
Bob hovered on the brink of death for a number of days after his surgery.
As a family friend, I spent time in the ICU area—minutes passing slowly—as we awaited the latest updates from the medical staff.
In the critical time following surgery, Bob was given CPR several times, placed on a respirator and given tube feeding until his condition stabilized.
After nine days in ICU and 15 more days in the hospital, Bob was discharged to recover at home.
Currently Bob is actively involved in the lives of his five children and seven grandchildren. His calendar is filled with grandchildrens’ school and sports events.
Bob lives life to the fullest, traveling and socializing with his wife and friends, reading and cooking gourmet meals for family and friends.
At the time of his hospitalization, Bob’s family knew that he had plenty of living yet to do. His condition was serious but not terminal, so it was appropriate to use life support systems while his body recovered.
Recalling the fact he was unaware of much what was going on during his days in ICU, Bob noted:”Somebody has to be there to advocate for you.”
Then he added with a laugh, “It’s a good thing I kept my lovely wife around for 55 years.”
Bob’s illness is a good example of an instance in which life support measures were used to help an otherwise healthy patient while he recovered.
Bob’s situation spurred my thoughts about my own Advanced Directive and Living Will.
Obviously, if I have a serious, but treatable medical condition I will want to have support measures if appropriate.
But what if I have a terminal illness and cannot speak for myself? What if I have a stroke?
What kind of care will I want? Who will make decisions for me?
In my next column I will discuss my own process of filling out an advanced Directive and Living Will.
Readers, please tell us about your experience in filling out these forms.