What do you think about how hospitals handle “end of life” care. My opinion…my experience…they suck. Let me give you the scenario that led me to believe the way I do. Please withhold judgement, until you have read this story. Then, I beg you to give me an honest shake.
By the way, my wife is an RN and some of my best friends doctors, so I don’t have it out for anyone. There is simply a major flaw.
Enough of the rhetoric, here goes.
…one sunny afternoon, my dad has a heart attack. I go to the hospital to be with him. He is told by docs that his heart is in bad shape, and there is nothing they can do.
So, what does he do?
He did like the damn rest of us would do…he googled his symptoms and problems. What did he find?
He found a solution…so he thought. It was a valve replacement surgery. So, he calls me up and said, “You have to get me in front of this doctor.”
I took him to the appointment, the doc says, he was hopeful. The doc calls his surgeon friend and mentions he thinks he should consider operating on my dad.
We go there and he agrees…let’s do this.
The day before surgery, we go to the hospital. My dad is admitted. He was so excited. I take it you know my dear ole dad didn’t make it. But I will get to that.
The thing was, things didn’t go so well. Dad couldn’t recover. He coded 3 times after surgery. So, then the docs said oh he needs a pacemaker. Did you know that if they can keep someone alive for 30 days after a procedure, they do not consider the death procedure related. Well, damn! that might explain why they were so willing to let him die at day 31.
My dad just didn’t recover well. He begged me to get him to hospice, I begged the staff to help me make that happen.
The hospital staff acted like they cared about my old man more than I did.
But, in the true form of classic avoidance, the lower staff members deferred to the physicians, and the docs would disappear as soon as I had a question. I even chased one down in the hallway, since he saw me with my dad and skipped his ICU room altogether. I won’t bore you with the details because I could go on forever about the day to day stuff that went down.
It was a nightmare, and they will do everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t come back on them. Some people told me I should hire an attorney to right the wrongs done to us at that time. But, I firmly believed my dad wanted to either improve or die.
He told me that he didn’t want to live the way we was living with the angina all the time. He couldn’t do anything meaningful anymore. He couldn’t work in the yard, go to the store, and he resented that. He wanted to be better or buried.
So, I let it slide….he knew the risks. Do I sound calloused? I don’t think so. I think we all should be able to choose how we want to live. We should also be able to choose what we think is an acceptable quality of life.
For my dad, his quality of life was in the bucket, so he rolled the dice. I don’t blame him. But the end could have been very different for him.
Once I finally got him to hospice, he lasted an hour and a half. Then he went from this life to the next. He was in a better place, and so was the hospital. They had no adverser surgery records, and got to bill out $750,000.
The biggest learning experience for me from this was…don’t wait to live when you are dying. My dad wanted 10 more years. That was it…but his number was up. I don’t want to live in denial about the day that comes and someone says, I am sorry…there is nothing we can do. Get your house in order. I don’t want to be wondering why I can’t have more time to do all the things I wanted or loved others well.