A number of recent factors have led me to think long & hard about end of life decisions & procedures.
One of these factors was the recent death of my hubby’s godmother & second mother on Nov. 1. She was 90 years old, had dislocated her shoulder & broken 3 ribs without falling & was in a great deal of pain. The broken ribs caused internal bleeding & because she was on a blood thinner, she nearly bled out. She emphatically stated she did not want any life saving measures, she wanted to die. Even though she was counselled she may suffer a heart attack or stroke if she stopped taking her blood thinners, she chose to stop taking them.  She was offered blood transfusions at least twice & refused each time despite her hemoglobin being so low she was having difficulty breathing. The only thing she asked was not to have pain. The hospital kept her on a scheduled pain killer routine as part of what they called “comfort care.” There were times when she suffered before she was due another pain killer. She had a heart attack & slipped into a light coma a couple days before she died.  From the time the hospital advised her daughters to gather the family because death was imminent to her actual passing was a little over 2 weeks.  Although everyone was exhausted (including the patient), she was attended by a family member at all times.

Approximately 11 months ago I was diagnosed with COPD which is a progressive, terminal lung disease.  However well I feel right now is the best I will ever feel again during my lifetime.  My lungs will continue to deteriorate for as long as I live.  No one can give me a time line for my illness because every person is different.  If I can keep myself reasonably healthy by not getting any colds, flu or pneumonia I may be one of the lucky ones who lives for years with this disease.  If I do not stay healthy, any illness could dramatically shorten my life.  Being breathless or short of breath & struggling to cough up mucous is a horrible feeling & I live with this to some extent every day.  Basic chores like having a shower, doing a couple loads of laundry or trying to dry mop the floor can be so exhausting  I have to spend a lot of time resting.  A lot of people with this disease suffer from depression & anxiety disorders – I had them before I got sick.  When I think of what my future may bring – oxygen tanks, hospitalizations, respirators & more, I am not comforted by the prospect of what I may have to face before death takes me.  I am not encouraged by what hubby’s godmother just went through.  I had hoped there would be some system in place whereby you could get extra painkillers so you could just quietly pass on in your sleep.

Many of you probably recall reading about a fellow blogger named Bill Hamilton who became a mentor & friend to me.  He had COPD & wrote a blog about it called Dealing with COPD.  For the last few months of his life Bill was in Hospice Care in his own home in Florida & like every other aspect of his life with COPD he wrote extensively about his experiences.  In my opinion he was quite pleased with their care.  Bill died at the beginning of September & was blogging until the day before he died.

Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old young woman with terminal brain cancer took steps to ensure she would be able to choose her own time of death & how much suffering she would endure.  It involved her moving from California to Oregon where it is legal for a doctor to prescribe medication to assist a dying person to commit suicide.  Please read more about Brittany here:  http://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/brittany-maynard-29-year-old-right-to-die-advocate-ends-her-life/ar-BBcETNA

I admire Brittany for taking the steps she needed in order to live her life the way she wanted.  Obviously I need to do more research about what is available here in Alberta, Canada in the way of “end of life” care.  I would hope there is some type of hospice care here like what Bill experienced or maybe I need to consider a move to Oregon or Washington.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

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