My mother has had several health crises in the past several months, getting right to death’s door and then rallying. I’m not sure how many more rallies she has in her, but her determination is really quite impressive. At the last visit to the threshold, her husband was asked if she had signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. Did she want to be resuscitated if her heart stopped? Though my mother signed a living will, he refused to sign the DNR. My sister and her partner talked with him, all examining her living will together, and eventually he relented, he and my sister signing the document.
Well, she has rallied since this and is back in the rehab center to get the physical therapy she needs. A nurse asked her if she wanted them to resuscitate her if her heart stopped and she said, “Sure.” So, my sister, who lives closer to her, went to talk with her to see if she were really fully informed about what this resuscitation would entail: chest compressions (which often break ribs and cause a great deal of pain), electrical or chemical cardioversion, countershock (defibrillation), and endotracheal intubation. When my mother’s husband walked in on the conversation, he freaked out with what he heard and said that the conversation was over, that mom had made her decision the day before. He became hostile and would not calm down, saying that he was going to tear up the living will mom had signed, and eventually stomped out of the room. Mom said, “He doesn’t want to let me go.”
Tomorrow I will be going to visit her again and try to talk to her about the DNR, making sure that she understands that this decision is about her, not C (her husband), that this is her fully informed decision to make. I have been going in to see her at least every other week with a few weekends back to back depending on the health crisis de jour. It’s about a four hour drive from Chicago. Our car is at the mechanics today. It has started to make a lot of noise lately and the mechanic said we needed a new catalytic converter. Actually we need a new car, but don’t have the money or the time right now to make that happen. (I wonder, are there DNRs for cars?) The mechanic said that because of the badly rusted catalytic converter, in all the 4 hour stints I have been making to see my mom, I have been inhaling carbon monoxide, slowly poisoning myself. (Hmmm… I can sense there is some greater symbolic meaning to all this.)
Over steaming bowls of homemade chicken soup (made from last night’s leftovers), JB and I were discussing Mom and C’s challenge, which, of course, has become our (and my sister’s and brother’s) challenge as well. “I’m pulling the plug on you.”
“I’m pulling the plug on you,” I replied. These were the deepest and most significant endearments we have ever shared (and we already have all the paperwork signed to prove it.)
This is so sad, but I guess it’s all part of life. It is a challenge and one that has to be talked about. Glad you and your husband have decided to “pull the plug” on each other and are there for your mom and C when they need your support. Sorry about the car though.
“PLUG CONVERSATIONS” are some of the most important ones that probably are the highest expression of pain, fear, loss, and LOVE!
The experience of losing a child brought this into perspective for me at a young age. My children are very clear as to my feelings. Hopefully it takes a burden off them.
This is an important issue that families need to discuss but rarely do until they are caught up in the emotion of the moment. Thanks for bringing it to the table for discussion.
Too few people have these conversations or, I think, truly understand what medical intervention REALLY entails. After helping my mother die of cancer in 09, I understand all too well how important these conversations are, and how vital (pardon the pun) it is to have thought these things through BEFORE they become realities.
If it ever comes to it, I’m having my plug pulled, and I’m pulling Mr. Chili’s. There’s a HUGE difference between living and just being alive.
I read the poem first. Don’t keep inflicting carbon monoxcide on yourself.
You have a way of putting pain in such balanced perspective, and your bravery and love in the face of such a crisis is inspiring, calming even.