Monday, October 26, 2009

I Saved A Life - and wondered why

I did, you know. Last night. I saved a life.

He was old. He's been confined to a chair eating pureed food for almost a year now. Unable to move himself. Just sitting.

Last week, he stopped eating. Then he stopped drinking. This is more common earlier on with men than with women for some reason. Usually, they stop. Then they become weak. Then they get weaker. Then they die.

He had stopped eating. Then drinking. He was at that slipping point - beyond where he would no longer respond. We who work there were ok with it. It has happened so many times before. But his family came in. Here is where I simply wonder - who are they thinking of?

I am not pro-euthanasia. Not at all. But I am for death, just as much as I am for life. When I come to die, if I am old and losing ability to do anything, let me die. I am going into the arms of my Father. Into life, not death. To see and hold my Lydia. To live. Let me die so I can live.

But it is a subject families grapple with. Some see it, and come and sit and keep someone company while they go. Others know it is coming and "can't bear to watch and to remember him like that", so they ask us to phone when it is over. These irritate me. I want to shake them and tell them that it is not about them and what they want - it is about the one whose trip through death into life it is. They can do what they want next week, but their father or mother might want them this week.

Then there are those who panic and fight it. At the last minute, they want us to pull out all the stops, transfer to hospitals, aggressively fight, and stop the inevitable. We can. In fact, we often have to when families insist. But for what? So he can sit in that chair eating pureed food for another two years and you stop by every two weeks for twenty minutes? For that?

It is not my call, though. I can only do what is requested. I may share my views if asked, but that is all. Last night, I was asked to save a life.

So I did. I spent hours coaxing liquid down a throat. Slowly pouring in thickened juice, talking, sweet talking, rubbing the neck under the chin to induce a swallowing reflex. As the evening went on, he became more alert. The liquid and the sugar giving him a boost. I worked hard at it, getting yogurt and then a meal replacement to just the right consistency and carefully getting it down him. He was already cold and mottling, but he perked up, and he will pull out of it.

I can do it. I am one of the better ones for doing that, having patience and skill. But why?

I think the answer to the why was simple. It is what I told him last night, "You need to drink. You need to get some energy back. Your daughter is not ready for you to go yet."

It is what she is ready for, not what he is. He will fight, hang on, and suffer more until she is ready. He was ready this week, but she wasn't.

When I am ready, let me die. Let me die, so I can live. So I can see face to face. So I can throw off suffering once and for all. So I can run and scoop up my daughter and give her the hug I've been longing to give her. Let me live.

I ate enough pureed food when I was a baby. Wore enough diapers then, too.


Karis said...

Oh, Ellie! You are a very special person with a special heart.

I agree with what you said about not being pro-euthanasia but about being for death as much as I am for life. I can see how it would be hard not to do everything possible for my grandparents when they were close to death or my parents but at the same time, I see that it would be for me and not for them especially when they were suffering and their days were just hanging on.

I can't imagine the emotional energy your job takes.

Becky Aguirre said...

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

I agree, there is a time for everything...sometimes it's hard to discern the 'when' of it...