Saturday, May 03, 2008

Heroic efforts / Tough Decisions / Insignificant Worries...

I've recently had to face the emotional ride one takes when facing a life-or-death situation. A close family member has placed me in that roller-coaster ride, full of decisions to be made that may affect whether a loved one lives or dies. At one point this week, we were facing the decision with medical professionals on what is meant by "heroic efforts" to keep a loved one alive. Does that mean that we do nothing to help avert any natural event that may lead to death? Or does that mean we do nothing "heroic" once the level of quality of life has diminished to the point of no return? And where is that point? It may seem very black-and-white, but in reality, as I've discovered this week, it's a continuum and there is a lot of gray, lending to lots of room for hope and miracles.

At one point, we were placed in that "consultation room" down the hall from the ICU where a discussion of "when to pull the plug" would be made. Decisions such as these do not come easily when the inevitable has not been reached yet. What a funny profession - this medical practice - where life and death decisions are made every day and seem to almost be taken as routine. For family who do not face this on the same frequency, the shock and stress levels go off the chart. A nurse actually told me that he loves to work in the Trauma Center because things are always happening and it keeps them busy and anxious to perform... and when it gets slow, he almost wishes for something to go wrong so they can kick in and do their job. I know he was just talking without thinking, but it didn't help when one realizes that when the trauma event comes, there is a real person there being placed in a very serious situation. I guess it also didn't help when my sister spoke with the cardiologist and asked how things were going, and he said: "Well, we're not ready to pull the plug just yet".

These doctors know much about the body, but they even admit that they are "practicing" and really don't know the potential of hope, and prayers, and miracles, and positive thinking, have on a patient and family members and loved ones. And where do priesthood blessings enter the picture? Are they just hopeful thinking?

It was refreshing to see the head medical doctor recognize the power of positive thinking, hope, faith, or whatever you may call it, and express it to the family when making such choices of such a serious nature.

And as I reflect on how we aren't "out of the woods" yet, I certainly can see first hand the power of such thinking. I've seen a miracle. A lot still has to happen. But a lot has happened.

It sounds trite to say that when faced with these decisions, all other problems and concerns seem to not matter quite so much, and fade into the background. They are still there, but it's amazing to realize how instantaneously one's priorities, concerns, angsts, worries, struggles (oh, yeah - am I still struggling with my attractions or was that just a little issue in the back of my mind and I can't really think about it right now???) and problems become less significant when compared to the bigger picture.

I am grateful to live in a day and country where medical miracles are still possible and the best can be found at our disposal. To see how many I.V. bags, tubes, gadgets, monitors,pumps and devices can be placed on one human body is mind-boggling!

I am also grateful to live in a day where priesthood power brings real comfort and sustaining reassurance from a Father who loves us and is mindful of us in little ways and places people in our lives at the time we need that sustaining reassurance.

More on other developments to come...


J G-W said...

Beck - So sorry to hear you have to go through this. Wow, have you had an interesting year! The closest I've been to this kind of situation was when they had to decide whether to put my 100-year-old grandmother on a feeding tube.

I'm not sure when, but I remember when there was a definite shift in my prayers for Grandma, from "please bless Grandma with long life and health," to "please take care of Grandma, give her courage and peace and help her know of our love."

One of So Many said...

It's definately a hard thing to deal with. My heart goes out to you. Seeing my father in law on a bunch of machines was hard. It was almost easier to let him go when he finally passed. I don't envy your position. Realize the eternity of life.

Damon said...


Life is full of new beginnings, new adventures and challenges...some good, some bad. Some we enjoy and others we may not. Life's cycle will leave each of us at deaths door. Death is also another new beginning.

Your loved one is lucky to have people surrounding him/her at this critical point. And you're right death always has a way of making most things look small. To me, it is a reminder to appreciate the time given to me in life. We should use it to make life better and enjoy it.

My Best to you-

Silver said...


These experiences can be such stressful times. They bring families together in support of one another but, sometimes they also bring a great deal of stress and old, suppressed issues rise to the surface. All families have their ways of dealing with such times.

In the last year I had three family members in ICU at various times. We benifited from the care of wonderful doctors and nurses and suffered at the hands of others who were less caring, insenstive and jaded as you describe in your post. For now, our cases had good outcomes and all three returned home.

I am the only active priesthood holder in my immediate family so, I am always looked to for support and spiritual council by the family. I don't always enjoy the role or feel fully worthy. In spite of my weakness, God has blessed us many times with answered blessings and prayers.

I had to care for my brother last year for a month in ICU. I don't particularly like him. It was a difficult time where I became a caregiver due to his unwise health choices and lifestyle. I learned from the experience and remarkably grew closer to him, but, I payed a price in my own well being for a time and it was hard on my wife and children.

I suppose as families mature we will all face these challenges and learn from lifes passages. We often pay the price for others poor choices as well and in turn perhaps others will care for us in the future in similar fashion.

I wish you well as you accept this challenge and care for your loved one. I hope the outcome will be as well as possible and that you and your family can be at peace as this unfolds.

Sincerely, Silver

Neal said...

Tough moments lately, in your life. Perhaps this group can relate and empathize in ways others cannot. We are praying for you and yours. We are here for you!