I want to thank everyone who has shared kind words, thoughts and prayers with me and for my family over the last few weeks. After suffering a massive stroke over Memorial Weekend, my grandmother passed away this week and her funeral was today.
Warning: The balance of this post discusses death and is frank and depressing.
My Grandmother's unexpected emergency medical situation created a situation unlike any other that my family has experienced. Several years prior, she had made a Living Will and also filled out specific paperwork supporting her wish to be treated as DNR. All members of the family were aware of her wishes.
However, despite our knowledge of her wishes and the specifications within her DNR statement, one thing was painfully clear throughout this ordeal. It is likely impossible to anticipate all possible health situations that might call for the utilization of the DNR order.
The specifics of my Grandmother's situation are still too painful and raw for me to share. I am compelled, however, to urge anyone who desires for a DNR order to be followed, to have detailed and meaningful conversations with their family regarding their own personal definition of quality of life. Put your definition in writing and make it as specific as possible.
When my husband and I have discussed our wishes, we have always spoke in generalities and with an assumption that any situation we might be in which a DNR order might come into play, the ailing person would likely be unconscious and incapable of logical thought. My grandmother was conscious until the end and, despite some debate between family members, capable of logic, reason and, albeit limited, communication. Her condition was not terminal.
Prior to my Grandmother's passing, two other relatives have passed after application of DNR orders and being moved to Hospice facilities. Both were unconscious and initially utilizing life saving equipment and had terminal conditions. One was a grandfather, who passed away 48 hours after being removed from the equipment. The other was my father-in-law, who passed within 24 hours. This represented my total experience with Hospice.
My Grandmother was only receiving fluids via IV in the hospital. When she was moved to a Hospice facility, she no longer received fluids. Once in the Hospice facility, only medications to relieve pain could be administered, based upon the interpretation of her DNR order. I learned from the Hospice staff that some patients survive five weeks, without food or water.
My Grandmother lived for two weeks, conscious barring occasional naps, up until the last 24 hours.
Perhaps I have been fortunate to experience little in my past of the challenges of death. I have experienced immediate, unanticipated, anticipated....however my Grandmother's passing was the first of its kind. It has spurred more detailed and emotional discussions between my siblings, my husband and myself, of our wishes, fears and hopes.
My Grandmother had a full life and lived every minute of it. She was loved in life and will be loved in memory. I'm grateful that I had time to spend with her at the end and I'll find a way to work through the pain of the way she passed to focus on my positive memories of her.
Please, never again like this.
Photo Credit: Violet Images