Home at last
By Warren R. Heymann, MD
Jan. 20, 2018
(This is a continuation of posts about my mother. Please see “Happy 95th Birthday Mom! A Birthday Wish in the Era of ‘Value-Based’ Healthcare” June 5, 2016 and “Medical Ego Inflation and a Lesson from Mom” October 31, 2016)
“Warren, let me die in my own bed.”
My mother has talked of her demise for years, but usually in the context of challenging medical dogma in her will to live — having surgeries (cervical spine repair, ostomy reversal) and procedures performed that were considered too risky for the aged — “It’s all about quality of life. I’d rather die than live this way. I’m old. I’ll take the risks.”
Six months ago was different. What I heard was resignation in her voice as she was too weak to breathe. My brother George and I coerced her to go to the hospital one more time; her pulse oximeter reading of 74 warranted a CCU visit — congestive heart failure combined with kyphosis-induced restrictive lung disease required careful medical manipulation. Oxygen is life for all of us — in mom’s case a cannula will remain her lifeline.
My brother and I realized that the only way for my mother to achieve her wish would be to totally rehabilitate the house, by adding a first floor bedroom, handicapped bathroom, a workable kitchen, and a family room. I am in awe of how this was accomplished in about four months; George compulsively directed every detail in this project, obsessing over detail, down to the precise placement and height of every light fixture. It was masterful — I am so grateful to him as it would have been impossible for me to do this from another city, working full time. The house is magnificent.
Mom made it through rehab, but admittedly and understandably, was depressed by the process and the facility. I can’t blame her. Some attendants were fine, others less so. Being around people at the end of life, who are infirm and/or disoriented, eating institutionalized food, and feeling alienated from your beloved environment is not a stimulus to live.
She is most fortunate to have the resources to do what most 96-year-old people cannot – literally build a personal facility adapted for the end of life. She came home January 18th coinciding with my brother’s 69th birthday — the best birthday present imaginable.
I am convinced that the project itself sparked her desire to live. Six months ago, I interpreted her words as a request to let her go.
Maybe my brother and I were being selfish, but we did not think she was ready for that.
When I visited her two weeks ago, I knew we made the right decision.
She smiled and said “Warren, this Bitcoin cryptocurrency is fascinating. Here, read this Scientific American article. I read every word. I’m not sure I understand all if it, but it’s amazing!”
Life is gamble and risk. I am not going to speculate on Bitcoin. But I’ll never bet against my mother. She defies all odds.
Welcome home mom!
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