Sharing Your Wishes

I would like to begin by apologizing to my readers for taking a little time off from my weekly Blog entries.

Anyhow, I’d like to talk about something I feel is often overlooked by many of my patients. This week I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve had regarding end of life care.

I was lucky enough to meet a wonderfully kind patient last fall in the hospital while taking care of a wound on his leg. The next seven months proved tough for him because of complications from a procedure on his already weak heart. I began making home visits because it was too hard for him to leave the house, and I grew very close to him and his devoted wife.

In fact, I had told my husband many times how much they reminded me of my Grandparents. It was obvious that even after 60 years of marriage they adored each other. I would catch them glancing at each other intimately when they didn’t realize I was looking, and she told me that he took her hand every single night and thanked her for taking care of him that day.

Two weeks ago, his health worsened, and he required emergency surgery. A week after his surgery, he was still on the ventilator, and his prognosis was not good. His wife, for whom he was the whole world, made the brave decision to respect his wish never to be connected to machines to keep him alive. Several hours after the breathing tube was disconnected, he peacefully died.

I’ve been with my husband for 15 years, and I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to let go of her husband of four times that length. Fortunately, they had talked about it enough that she could feel comfortable knowing what he wanted. Too often, I see families who don’t know their loved one’s wishes or who do know but still refuse to let go.  I have seen so many people, both young and old, who endure painful procedures near the end of life that don’t make them better and only prolong their suffering.

I know how hard it is for any of us to consider the end of life, but death is one of the few things in life that’s certain, and it’s never too soon to discuss end of life wishes with your loved ones.