(This is a monthly column I write for my local newspaper, The Nugget, in Sisters, Oregon)
I had surgery last month– relatively minor, a parathyroidectomy– as an outpatient at St. Charles Hospital, but still it was under general anesthesia and the surgeon did have to slit my throat!
At the pre-admission interview I was asked if I had an Advance Healthcare Directive. I said yes, knowing I had filled it out some years ago covering every contingency I could think of indicating no resuscitation, no feeding tubes, no transfusions, no drastic measures.
Then the nice lady passed me a paper to sign waiving anything in my AHD about resuscitation, transfusions, etc. if my heart stops beating or anything goes wrong during surgery. Excuse me? If I didn’t sign it, I couldn’t have the surgery.
I signed because I really wanted to have this surgery and I figured the odds of anything going wrong were slim… and nothing went wrong, I’m fully recovered. Feeling much better, thank you.
Then the other day I read a news story about a 13-year old girl who had a tonsillectomy and is now brain dead. The hospital wants to pull the plug, the parents hold out hope that she’s going to wake up. Who gets to decide when there is no AHD? This could be another Terry Schiavo case.
Many people live in death denial. When it comes up, there’s shock, panic, confusion… there’s guilt, shame, fear. This can’t be happening to me! to my child! to my mother! to my partner!
We pretend it’s never going to happen and try not to think about it– but this doesn’t just happen to others– it can happen to people we love and care about, and can’t bear the thought of losing.
As the year draws to a close and families gather together, it’s a good time to consider your own future healthcare plans and open up The Conversation at the dinner table with all family members present. Age or health is irrelevant because we are all going to kick the bucket one day.
Death is a family affair and it will help everybody to know how you want it to go when your time comes. This isn’t about your money and possessions– that’s a different conversation. In order to know which healthcare options you want and don’t want in an emergency or end of life situation, you have to look at all the possibilities and write them down, otherwise other people, probably strangers, could be making these decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
What if? What if you have a heart attack? get cancer? get hit by a truck? are badly burned? are in a persistent vegetative state? Do you want artificial hydration and nutrition? to be put on a ventilator? for how long? what about quality of life? Help each other make these decisions now to prevent arguments, mistakes, wrongdoings, and guilt during a health crisis.
Get the information and have the conversation– and it’s not just one conversation because circumstances change. Review your Advance Healthcare Directive every 5 years or if your health changes or you change your mind about something. This isn’t just for us of a certain age– include your children as well.
Contact compassionandchoices.com for state-specific forms and theconversationproject.org about having The Conversation… then attend one of my free Future Heathcare Planning sessions (watch Announcements).
The best gift you can give your family is to have all your paperwork together so they can carry out your end of life wishes if it becomes necessary. This workbook will help you and your loved ones have the conversations needed to make the decisions beforehand that they might be called upon to make for you in an emergency situation. Doing everything is not always the best response… and hope is not a plan.
For those who experience fear of death, this near-death experiencer describes leaving her drowning body in full consciousness, traveling through a void on a peaceful journey accompanied by an loving being of light that filled her with unconditional love, to an indescribably beautiful place where she was given a message to return with and share as widely as she could, that… we don’t die!
We are spiritual beings having human experiences and when we leave these human bodies, we continue along our spiritual journeys. We simply return home to the Source, the One, and we retain the essence of who we really are.
It has been her life work since her experience in 1971 to share this message and to teach the art of conscious dying, and now she has put her teachings into a workbook to help families talk to each other, their doctors, and their higher consciousness as they prepare to leave this phase of life and transition to the next, fully conscious.
Available everywhere – ISBN 9780963860651