Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The meeting and a story

Thanks to everyone that leaves me a comment or writes me an email. I really do appreciate your feedback! I went to the meeting today - it was more like a training session. It was mostly centered around our upcoming Joint Commission survey. They are the ones that give our hospital accreditation. I am sooooo thankful they don't visit at night...lol. Not that it really matters because we know the right answers to anything they ask - but none of us like being interrogated about our patients or their care. I'm glad I got the meeting over with. Now I have the next 2 days to take it easy.

I read this story on another web site and wanted to share it. It touched me and I'm sure it will touch others. I hope it's ok to post it here...

The Patient I Failed

She knew what she wanted.

She'd watched her husband of 52 years die on a vent, and followed his wishes to remain a full code. But she knew that was not what she wanted for herself.

So, she wrote a living will, had it notarized, gave it to her personal physician, told all her friends and family what she did not want. She wasn't eligible for a DNR, as she was a healthy 89-year-old, but she knew what she wanted.

"I do not wish my heart to be restarted through usage of any chemical, mechanical or physical intervention..."

Of her 6 children, one fought against her mother's decision, and it was this child, this one desenting voice, who found her mother collapsed on the kitchen floor.

"I do not want any external device to be used to maintain my respiration if my body is incapable of sustaining it on its own."

The daughter told EMS her mother was a full code, and they intubated her on the floor of her kitchen. Once at the ER, her heart stopped, CPR was performed, and her heart was shocked back into a beat. Under the hands of those trying to follow the daughter's wishes, the woman's ribs cracked and broke.

"I wish to die a peaceful, natural death."

She was then sent to ICU, where her heart tried to stop 3 more times. Each time, the broken ribs jabbed and ripped into the fragile muscle and skin as CPR was performed. Electricity coursed across her body and her frail heart was restarted a 4th time. By this time, the other children were there, but the act had been done, over and over. No DNR was written, and the Living Will fluttered impotently at the front of the chart.

"I do not wish artificial means of nutrition to be used, such as nasogastric tubes or a PEG tube."

Her swallowing ability was lost in the storm in her brain that had left her with no voice, no sight, no movement. A scan showed she still had brain activity; she was aware of what was being done to her. Including the PEG tube sank down into her stomach, and the trach in her throat.

"I wish nature to take its course, with only medication to prevent pain and suffering."

The daughter who wanted the mother to remain a full code also refused to allow narcotics to be given, stating she did not want her mother sedated, since she would "wake up" when the correct medical procedures were performed. Her nurses begged the doctor to write a DNR, and he said, "the family can't get it together, and I'm not getting into the middle of it."

"Allow me the dignity we give to beloved pets. Let me die in peace."

I met her one Tuesday night, and spent that night pouring Jevity into her tube, only to suction it back out. Her legs were cool and mottled, her bowel sounds were non-existant, and her blue eyes stared blindly at a ceiling she could no longer see. The MD refused to terminate feedings, but I held them since there was no digestion taking place. The woman was turned and repositioned every 2 hours, and each time, she moaned and gurgled as her lungs slowly filled with fluid. I whispered my apologies as I did the very things to her she tried so hard to prevent.

Suctioning improved her lung function, but would make her body tremble. Over the next 2 nights, she slowly died, all while the daughter demanded more interventions, and maintained that her mother wanted to be a full code. We had read the Living Will. We knew better.

"Thank you in advance for helping me in the last moments of my life to have a gentle, peaceful passing."

She had another stroke, and went back to the ICU, where she was coded until there was not enough surviving heart tissue to maintain a beat. Finally her heart was broken.

And so was mine.


dbp2000 said...

What a moving story.  I am going to make sure my (grown) kids read it.  Thanks for sharing.


tendernoggle said...

I held my daddy while he died from a massive heart attack...he had suffered from emphysemia for months and lost so much weight that I could encircle his upper arm with my thumb and index finger...The doctor said they could "bring him back" but he would be on a vent. the rest of his life...I said no...and held him and talked to him...all the while remembering him rocking me in the big old rocker...I watched a brother in law die a slow death from a brain anurism...he too had unseeing/ doll eyes...he lasted over two years that way...as YOU know...it is not like what you see on TV...wouldn't do that to my loved ones.
love ya,

Teresa said...

awww honey ((((Hugz)))) I'm so sorry... I'm sorry for your patient also, but She's gone to the Summerland and you are here with the memories. I wish you peace Sweetling. Blessings* Teresa