The transition from working at a nursing home and going to a hospital has been an eye-opening experience for me. Every day I am exposed to something new. And while the old adage, “you learn something new every day” plagues us all, I am very easily brought back to the real world when facing the inevitable death of a patient.
Although frequently, the role that we play in the last moments of life for this patient are limited, there have been several times where the last few moments have been a horrific and terrifying experience for all involved, from the patient, to caregivers and lastly, the family.
And what was the cause of all of this pain and suffering? It was the absence of a DNR order.
According to Wikipedia, “a Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR order is a written order from a doctor that resuscitation should not be attempted if a person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest.” Hence, this means that life sustaining measures will not be performed on someone, such as intubation, CPR, or defibrillation, which results in essentially shocking the patient. The entire process is quite gruesome and tiring. In many instances, choosing not to have a DNR for a loved one can be justified, however when faced with a terminally ill patient or a family member who is comatose or has suffered a severe ailment that has left the patient in a terminal state, I find it hard to agree with sustaining a person’s life under these circumstances.
Granted, I nor anyone else is able to play God and ultimately decide who will live or die. I truly believe in my heart that when it is time to pass on, a person should be able to do so without intervention. I can remember many a time when a patient has had a Code Blue and has stopped breathing. The next minutes that ensure are a blur. The family who is present with the patient may also serve as the Power of Attorney for Healthcare and decides that they want their family member saved. The ideas of all those wonderful television shows plague their thoughts as they picture their family member as the one who will walk out of the hospital in a short period of time without a scratch or bruise on them. Everything will be all better and life will go back to normal, but this is rarely the case.
In fact, the process is a terribly horrific one. There is a hustle and bustle of people in and out of the room, yelling this, yelling that, asking for this and that. There are medications and IVs everywhere. Of course, upon first acknowledgement of the patient coding, there is the chest compressions which begin.
Imagine your little frail 90lb grandmother who is 87 years old receiving chest compressions. This isn’t a pretty sight at all. The first compression is essentially going to break her ribs to an alarming cracking noise that will haunt you for a period of time afterwards. Soon there will be a tube placed down your throat, forcing breathing to happen in hopes of bringing back this little old woman to life. This is preceded by the attachment of the defibrillator strips that will check and essentially deliver an electrical shock to this woman, charring her skin and leaving the air filled with an unshakable smell.
And to think, this in hopes of saving a life where terminal illness or old age has wreaked havoc on the body. While the thoughts of a wonderful recovery dance through your head and being able to spend time with your family member after this as if nothing had happened, remember that the chances of recovering from the horrific events of CPR are very slim and can leave the person with terrible neurovascular defects, such as mental retardation or even leaving the person in a brain dead state.
Losing a loved one is a tough decision, especially when they are on their death bed. It is incredibly hard to let go of someone you love, but in the long run you don’t want to have to put someone you love through so much just to spend the time you wanted to have left with them.