End of Life Decisions

I am not sure who wrote this but it is very touching.

My Living Will — Last night my kids and I were sitting in the living room and I said to them, “I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on machines and fluid from a bottle.  If that ever happens, just pull the plug.”    They got up, unplugged the computer and threw out my wine.  The little bastards.

This week, my plan was take a deeper look at nutrition, with advice on how to efficiently read labels, some suggestions about getting a healthy variety in your meals and supplements that are worth considering.  Then, I went away skiing for the weekend and had a very monochromatic diet.  Looking back, it seems I ate and drank only red food products.  It was unintentional, although red does happen to be my favorite color.  After three days of red wine, red meat and ketchup-doused, unrecognizable finger food, I cannot stomach the hypocrisy of preaching about nutrition.  My plan is to try harder this week and actually have some well-researched information for you next week.

I like to keep YesFive light but don’t think I can fail to mention the tragedy that took place at Windham mountain, where we skied this weekend.  An eighteen year old girl lost control on a trail, careened into a ravine and then lost her life.  Eighteen – a lifetime ahead of her – gone in an instant.  Reportedly, she was a beginner and perhaps was on a trail too difficult for her.  I learned that she was not wearing a helmet.  I am not sure it would have mattered and it certainly does not matter to her family now.  Life is so very fragile, so very precious.  Undoubtedly, it is more comfortable to go through life not thinking about the end — more comfortable but careless.  You should have a plan.  There are two certainties in life.  The first is, if you mix tequila and cheap wine, you will get sick.  The second is, we are all going to die.

Today, some terminology.

1.  DNR – Do Not Resuscitate.  If you are in a hospital, you may see these signs over the beds of certain patients. When patients have a terminal illness or are elderly, they can choose to be DNR.  This means that if they suffer an event, like a stroke or cardiac arrest, health care personnel will not intervene to try to bring them back.  It does not mean that they will not receive the best treatment while they are alive.

2.  Pulling the plug – This is one of my least favorite terms.  Doesn’t it have an awfully, easy sound to it?  People use it all the time to mean “just let me die.”  In its most literal usage, it describes the withdrawal of means (usually respirators) that are keeping a patient alive.  I have pulled the plug so to speak and believe me, it is a lot different than unplugging the toaster.

3.  Advanced directives – legal documents that allow you to choose your end-of-life care ahead of time, before you are incapacitated and cannot convey your wishes.

4.  Living will – this is one type of advanced directive.  It is written and can be as specific as you would like it to be.  It addresses what kinds of treatments you would want and what kinds you would refuse if you were able.  It can document your feeling about organ donation.  It will only be used if you cannot speak for yourself and you are in a situation that is deemed, by medical professionals, to be terminal.  For instance, if you get into an accident, everything will be done, that can be done, to save you.  Your living will would only come into effect if there was no hope for survival.

5.  Health care proxy – A person who you designate to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot make your own wishes known.

Last year, 38 people died in skiing/snowboarding accidents.  This past Sunday, the sport took the life of 18-year old Erin Clare Malloy-McArdle.  It is an activity that I enjoy taking part in, one that I hope my children will continue to love.  Facing the fact that we are vulnerable may be something you would like to avoid but it is something that we all, unfortunately, need to address.  Tomorrow, my argument for why you and the people you care about should spend some time thinking and talking about the end of your life.  Today, if you have a moment, please send a thought or a prayer out for the family of Erin Malloy-McArdle.

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