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...