On Dying | cedricsmom's Blog

I wrote an order to discontinue life support this morning.  It was the first time I ever had to do that.  I stood next this womans bed as a machine pushed air into her lungs.  Her niece was the only family member present.  She was angry that her aunt had been intubated because she had asked never to be placed on life support. 

To be fair to the doctors, there was no paperwork available to confirm this and no family members were present when it was decided that she should be placed on a ventilator.  The paperwork was located about the time that the niece showed up.  She was angry and frustrated because she felt like her aunts free will had been violated. 

After discussion with this patients niece, review of the paperwork, and a meeting between all involved, it was explained that stopping the ventilator would likely result in the death of Dorothy.  Her niece said that she understood, but she wanted to be respectful.  Then she started asking questions.  If they left her on life support, would she pull through?  If her lungs had failed once, wasn't it likely she would die soon anyway?  Was she doing the right thing?

Assuring someone that they are doing the right thing is hard.  Because how do you know what the right thing is?  We are not endowed with the gift to see the future.  We don't know what will happen or how our decisions will turn out.  We have no right to play God, and we have no right to assume that we know best.  Yet we do.  Everyday.

I have struggled with this over the ten years I've been practicing medicine.  Finally I found peace in realizing that no matter what decsions we make God is in charge.  The Bible says our days our numbered before we are born.  I've seen examples of this time and again.  A man with every hope of survival after a 30 foot fall, stable and comfortable, and even a little excited about his first helicoptor ride to a larger hospital for surgery.  Plenty of time.  But the elevator wouldn't work, and the helicoptor couldn't take off once they finally got him loaded in.  He died on the roof of the hospital due to all the technical failures surrounding his transfer.  It was his time.  A young woman, 19 years old, in a car accident that should have been fatal.  She sustained so much trauma she was in the hospital for a month before they upgraded her condition to stable.  I saw her at kroger last week.  It was not her time. 

And Dorothy.  She was extubated this morning and expected to pass quickly.  When I left the hospital at 3:30 this afternoon, she was awake, alert, and comfortably beginning her recovery.  It is not her time. 

Many doctors operate on the principal that they hold life and death in the palm of their hands.  I disagree.  I believe we will die on the day pre-determined before we were born.  No miracle of technology or gifted physician can change that. 

I think that's why it's important to live each day as though it counts.  Because it does.  And there are no second chances.

This Blog Entry's Comment Board (11 comments)
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Posted on 04:49PM on Jun 5th, 2010
Thank you Indigo. : )
Posted on 08:26PM on Jun 5th, 2010
Thank you Garden.
Posted on 10:00AM on Jun 13th, 2010
I never say this out loud but I did think about things like these and was grateful I was never and not likely will ever be in your position. I'm glad that you have finally found peace with it.

Life, death and destiny are a lot more complicated that we can ever understand - that is why I personally think faith is important. These are the things you need to confide and trust in Someone else :)
Posted on 10:06AM on Jun 13th, 2010
Exactly June. Living with these things and not having an outlet for them is exhausting. Finding peace with God has helped immensely. My blog does too, because I get feedback from people who understand. Thanks for your comments.
Posted on 10:22AM on Jun 13th, 2010
I did love the sensitivity with which you wrote this was beautiful. I do agree with you thoughts about when it is our time. I was given Morphine during an operation when I am clearly allergic to it... I died... was wasn't my time. Another year I was at home with pneumonia... I died and vividly remember crossing to the other side, I saw friends and family, even pets, I spoke with a figure I believe to be Jesus.... he told me things and I was told it wasn't my time I had to return. All the things I was told came to pass including the birth of my son ( after 9 miscarriages) Our days are numbered and our journey must be completed.
Posted on 10:40AM on Jun 13th, 2010
Thank you for sharing c8lorraine. I've witnessed this time and again and am convinced no man passes before his journey is complete.
Posted on 10:54AM on Jun 13th, 2010
It's nice to know someone is in charge and it's not us!

I can't imagine how hard it was to be in your position.

I am glad you made peace with it and glad Dorthy has at least a little longer.
Posted on 10:55AM on Jun 13th, 2010
Dr Raymond Moody wrote a book about his observations. It was an enlightening read after my NDE as I found I couldn't tell many people without being laughed at or ridiculed cruelly.
Posted on 10:59AM on Jun 13th, 2010
Kris, Dorothy is doing really well. She should go home this week, it was not her time.

c8lorraine, I find that most people think it's imagination. Oxygen deprivation...something. Thanks for sharing with me.
Posted on 11:31AM on Jun 13th, 2010
Great story, wonderfully told. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Posted on 12:02PM on Jun 13th, 2010
Thanks Nyxie.
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