They said, “Do everything.”
She knew something was wrong. And by the time she was 85 she had forgotten the names of her children, the town she raised them in, even the name of her deceased husband. In her 70s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Still coherent, she talked to her physician about becoming a DNR: do not resuscitate. She did not want to live on a machine that would breathe for her, she did not want CPR on her chest, she just wanted to go “home” peacefully. To go home to her Lord.
Instead of entering a nursing home, her son demanded on taking his momma home to live with him. So in her late 80s, she became more despondent, unable to talk, unable to feed herself, unable to go to the bathroom. And her son, who couldn’t wait to take care of her in his home, slowly, ignored all of her basic needs. He’d quietly shut her bedroom door. Johnny had to work. And Johnny had to play. He was too busy to turn her, too busy to clean her, too busy to feed her. And after two years in his home, sweet Mrs. Sally became contractured, bed-ridden and riddled with decubitus ulcers. A neighbor caught wind of potential neglect of Mrs. Sally and notified social services.
When social services arrived, they found Mrs. Sally laying in feces and urine, malnourished and her body cover in decubitus ulcers. Everywhere. Within due time, social services strongly encouraged Johnny to admit his mother to a nursing home.
Mrs. Sally arrived at the nursing home. Unable to eat, unable to talk, unable to walk, and her skeletal body lay in bed with permanent contractures.
Mrs. Sally was ready to die. Her DNR status was current, and the nursing staff gave her the best tender loving care possible. They made Mrs. Sally comfortable, as best they could. They held her hand and talked to her and cleaned her up. But Mrs. Sally never responded. Within a few months, Mrs. Sally showed more signs of deterioration. And one night, her breaths were so shallow, and her pulse was irregular and thready, that the nursing home thought she was dying. The staff made her as comfortable as possible and called the son to let him know that his momma was dying.
Johnny wasn’t ready to see his momma die, and told the nursing home staff to call 911 and send her to the ER. The staff reminded Johnny that his mom was a DNR. Johnny said, “bring her in.”
And so, the EMTs and paramedics arrived at the nursing home to take Mrs. Sally into the hospital. Since Mrs. Sally was now unresponsive, and unable to talk or to make any decisions about her DNR that she signed herself, Johnny was able to rescind the DNR.
And upon arrival to the ER, Johnny and his sisters burst through the ER doors screaming, “Do everything!”
Upon admittance to the emergency department, Mrs. Sally had a thready pulse and gasping respirations, sometimes agonal. Within minutes, a code blue was called overhead in the ER. Mrs. Sally lost her pulse, she was straight lining and had no respirations.
And against our morals, against our compassion, against our need to have dignity to this little lady and her last days on earth, we presented her with rapid CPR compressions; we felt her tiny ribs crunch and break, and her heart rate speed up to a chaotic fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is announced by the ER nurse, and she screams, “all clear,” as we force an electrical current through her heart. And we watch her have seizures and loss of oxygen to her brain and leave her with a faint thready pulse and too much time for no oxygen to her brain. And she “survives” these insults that we forced upon her, leaving an anoxic brain in her contractured body.
And the family is pleased: “Praise be, she’ll live to be 100.”
And we, the EMTs, the doctors, the ER nurses and the ICU nurses, bow our heads, because we know we brought torment and pain and assault to this tiny, malnourished lady, who once had a vibrant life. Who once had a full life. But slipped into the tunnel of dying. Almost peacefully, until her family forced us nurses, us EMT and paramedics, us doctors to bring her back. And instead of Mrs. Sally going to her heaven, instead of being in her heaven, and resting in peace forever, We condemned her to a living hell.
Prepare your moms and dads and grandmoms and grandpas and allow them to drift peacefully into that other world.
It is not heaven on earth. It is a hatred left here on earth. A hatred that is hell-bent.
Two days later, Mrs. Sally died on a ventilator in the ICU. We were unable to bring her back.
And her family that said, “Do everything,” were nowhere to be found. Her nurse held her hand, as Mrs. Sally died, on the ventilator with a bruised chest and fractured ribs from her CPR.
If your loved one has reached an end-stage of life, do the right thing. Let them die peacefully.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com