Close to Home

Wow. John, please teach me to link like any self-respecting blogger, because I really want to link to a story in the Mail on Sunday, posted at Majikthise by The J Train while Amanda is helping out in NOLA. It may or may nont be true, but like The J Train, I don’t know why it wouldn’t have happened, despite the grisliness and far-fetchedness. After all, what’s not grisly and far-fetched about the situation anyway?

This story is about doctors in New Orleans and environs having to make the decision whether or not to give patients morphine overdoses and so allow them to end their lives in dignity, as opposed to possibly being victims of looting, squalor and agony-filled desperation while waiting for their lives to end.

This is a story close to my own heart.

My mother had a rocky but fast battle with cancer. She lost. For the last week or so she was in a coma, and Dad and Scott and I sat around reading books and…waiting. In a peaceful, well-run hospital. No threat of terror here (Other than the fear of death, which is pretty universal, really)
But the big scariness was pretty big and scary. Doctors could give us no prognosis, because there was nothing they could say or do. There was no information. The cancer was in her lungs, in her brain. No one knew how long it would take to kill her. We were a family in the grips of intense frustration, as well as shock. And we have never communicated our feelings very well to one another, so we were also a group of people isolated, but held together through the conventional ties of family.

If we’d thought to have some hospice care workers come in, we might have been able to better prepare for the inevitable. Doctors, as they could not ethically give us anythign to hope for, were schtum. Hospice help probably wouldn’t have been. Note to self: The next time someone I love dies, I’m getting all the fucking support they’ll give me.

As it was, my mother died in the early afternoon. I got to the hospital in time to see my brother come off the payphone. “She’s gone,” he said.

In the visitors’ room beside the room my mother died in, the doctor, an internist, spent some time with us. He asked us something. I can’t remember what, but it was something like, “Do you have any questions?”

Um, no. My mother just died there. What was I supposed to ask you? Your play-by-play on her palliative care? What happens after we die? Why you only serve cherry jello here?

I am so sorry for those victims of Katrina that were killed by doctors seeking to give them dignity in death.

I am much more sorry for those doctors, who, looking the Hippocratic Oath in the eye, saw the situation, had no answers, and had to create their own answers.

God bless you.

4 Comments to “Close to Home”

  1. By Zen, September 12, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

    Get this:
    http://wbloggar.com/files/v400/wb400.exe and when it’s installed, give me a shout.

    If you wanna do it from within the front-end (the web-based entry), there should be a “LINK” button that you can hit, and it’ll pop up a little thing for what you want the link to be, and what you want the words for the link to be…

    Likesay, give me a shout and I’ll walk you through it.

  2. By Zen, September 12, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

    Went out and read the bit you were talking about, and I think THIS is the link you were looking for. Bru…tal…

  3. By Zen, September 12, 2005 @ 7:51 pm

    And just in case I’m the only one who’s Yiddish is a little rusty:

    “SCHTUM”

    Meaning
    Say nothing.

    Origin
    A Yiddish expression, from German stumm meaning silent.

    As for losing your mum, I simply have no idea what that’s like. I’m going to have to go through it eventually with my own parents, and eventually either Arwen or I will have to be without the other, but I simply can’t fathom it yet.

    Of course, being a dad still blows my mind, so what the hell do I know?

  4. By Liz, September 12, 2005 @ 10:00 pm

    That’s it. Scary, huh?

    As for losing a loved one, yes, it sucks so badly I can’t even begin to explain it. I think the secret is in loving as many people as you can. That way you do end up going to more funerals, but the people with whom you share your grief are thicker on the ground. And when you talk about the person who died, with the people who are still alive, and who love you, your bond with them grows stronger.

    But I’d hate to be the last one standing. Maybe that’s why there’s Alzheimer’s.

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