Friday, June 27, 2008

A woman approaches me with a little light DNR, and traumatized squirrels

“Didn’t I see you on the Coho Ferry on Saturday Evening?” this woman asks me as I am wheeling up the hill. I thought it one of the most bizarre openings because it was the chirpy, “see you” like, “Didn’t we meet up and pass conversation on the weather” – so, did we run into each other?

I said, “If there was someone lying down with blue lips hooked up to a bottle of oxygen and an EMT working on me, then yes, that was probably me.”

“I thought I recognized you!” said what seemed to be this slightly dense woman in her 50’s. Well since I was sort of carried out ala funeral march I think EVERYONE on the ship might of recognized me. She blathered on, “So what morning crossing do you take….I like to take the early ones..”

I am sort of stunned because, did she imagine I sort of just did a jaunt each weekend with a medical team? Anyway, I can’t remember how, it came up but she had seen me before, I had flipped out of a chair and she had “stayed with me” while offering no help whatsoever and blathering on then, and it took two blocks of “I REALLY AM okay! …….you can GO NOW!” to get rid of her. I mentioned that was the night I met my night worker.

Well this got her going about a case in Winnipeg, and what did I think about that and isn’t it a travesty the way the family continues to force the medical system.

I told her I was not familiar with the case.

She said that here was this person on machines and the family simply ‘wouldn’t let go! And it is just DISGUSTING (word she used) and using up so much money and the doctors are actually quitting because they won’t work on this person anymore because it is such a waste!'

Well, as a person who is off and on machines and likely is going to be on machines in the future the fact that someone being on a machine needing to be unplugged in order to save money fascinated (terrified) me. So I asked for more details, like who is on the machine.

“Oh it’s some 90 year old man, that the whole point, it’s such a waste.”

Now, since virtually ALL of my relatives live until 103-108, including my current Great uncle and Great aunt, my grandmother (the one not killed off), and my great, great aunt finally passed, saying someone was 90 to me is saying, “Gosh they only have 15 years left to live!” I used to joke about this with my grandfather when he was 75ish, about how now that he only had 30 years to live, he needed to take things seriously. It annoys me when people talk about people who are older than a certain age as if killing them or having them die is GOOD because….well, they’re OLD! (there seems no other logic to this). And I have to wonder if people whose families die out in their 60-65 would feel if I started saying, “Oh my God, there is a person in the hospital who is kept alive on machines, and they are FIFTY years old! What a WASTE of money, because my goodness, it isn’t like they aren’t already FIFTY!” Because that is 15 years before their family statistically dies. That sounds a little cruel and callused doesn’t it? But then I have noticed that people are able to SAY cruel and callus things about what should be done to the disabled when you are talking to them from a wheelchair.

So I asked, “Is he brain dead?”

And the woman was, “Oh, what? Oh yes, brain dead I think, that’s the whole part that is so wasteful and his family won’t let him go!”

Gee lady, could you have brought up the BRAIN dead part early instead of as treating it as an irrelevant add-on? I actually got a bit heated because here in Canada, while in the States they may be talking about what can and can’t be done with DNR’s, but in BC since doctors don’t get sued, can’t get held liable (not in my province), DNR is a little more PROACTIVELY administered.

I said, “Yes, a lot of people need to be VERY careful with their DNR, because in this province and town, pretty much the number one way elderly people die is from their DNR, which once they can’t feed themselves, is used to starve them to death.”

The woman piped up, “You don’t have to tell me honey, I was in the medical field, and they don’t starve, they just deny the IV to cause death by dehydration!”

Okay, now AS a person who is frequently paralyzed and is facing a future where a machine may breath for me as well as a machine may feed me, and I am trying to draft a DNR, talking to this woman who is still on and on about the cost and how it is so much quicker to kill by dehydration (like six days) than starvation……..

Welcome to British Columbia Health (remember the motto: The BEST place to live on earth…….until we kill you).

When my Grandmother was in a facility, her doctor care was done entirely over the phone. She would complain of needing pills, the doctor would prescribe them after the family made a phone call. She was not visited, nor were most if any of the several hundred seniors in that home. There are many doctors who make a living phoning in tests or prescriptions. In fact my grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma, and given a prognosis of how long she would live…..all over the phone, without the doctor examining her at all (or seeing her). She got her regular blood transfusions for a few years and it was during one of these time, much like I posted on here that I am not sure if the future is worth living (she said that sometimes too). Only when she said it, they pushed a DNR in front of her and she was told to sign here. That was faxed to the doctor who stopped her transfusions (did not again come to assess her state of mind) he told the family when she would die again, all over the phone.

Only, a bit like me and the cat which came back, she didn’t die. She had a grand old time having her third (or was it fifth) party where she invited all her friends because she was dying. And weeks passed, and she was still chatting away…not DEAD. Only the “family” had already booked her funeral, and the memorial service, and her cremation. Except…she just wouldn’t DIE. (Are you getting an idea of why I don’t want parts of my family tending to my care even IF they wanted to).

So one particular relation, when the others were on vacation, called in to the doctor that she was in terrible pain and got her put on a morphine drip. Again, all over the phone. And like all people put on a morphine drip she slipped into a coma and STILL wouldn’t die (but don’t worry, she was killed, literally less than an hour before she needed to be dead or everyone would lose the deposits and the funeral and cremation and memorial would not be able to occur on time – how incredibly thoughtless of her!). And she was also pronounced dead, I believe, over the phone (my relations won’t really talk to me on this part).

So that is BC medicine. And you can see why I am kind of concerned that Linda is the person who will get to keep the vultures at bay because if I choose that road: just because I am on a machine, or on many machines and I can’t talk, or am partially paralyzed doesn’t mean I WANT to be dehydrated to death, or put in a morphine coma (though that sounds more interesting). And if Triumph isn’t blowing smoke up my…um, there, then they say they can’t get me a computer I operate with my eye and I might still be blogging from cyborg land (machined up and ready to go). Assuming I escape this harpy of death who finds, “Didn’t I see you at the coffee shop! You had a latte!” and “Didn’t I see you getting continuous medical assistance on the boat I was on!” both cheerful and chipper ways to start conversations on the waste of people who are using the medical health system, to someone in a wheelchair….who she saw on oxygen.

On the plus side, um, I went to feed the squirrels. Instead I got to see an 11 year old boy approach the squirrel, run at it, run around the tree chasing it and then collect pine cones and try to knock it unconscious so it would fall out of the tree. He was one of MANY children playing capture the flag through the park.

Not a lot of squirrels approached me today. They seemed kind of jittery. Odd that.


yanub said...

Ugh. So this woman was in the medical field? Did she get her training under Dr. Goebbels or Dr. Mengele? And I am so sorry for you, for your grandmother, for having such dangerous relatives. Damn. Your kin are supposed to have your back, not knife you in the back.

I don't care whether or not someone is "brain dead." I find the whole notion of denying hydration and food to any living creature, even not humans, to be sadistic. These people who are so fast to support euthanasia, they pretty much always end up talking about the expense of "lives unworthy of life." If this is their idea of "help," I can do without it.

But the idea of continuing to live and communicate via computer...Isn't that just fantastic? I envision a future where people can even have robot avatars going out on adventures for them, like the whole world is your computer game. Probably lots of people who don't have disabilities would want in on the avatar action, too, and might even be jealous of people who were permanently logged on for one reason or the other.

Meredith said...

Ugh. That woman talks about "disgusting" things in the exact way that makes HER disgusting, dangit! I mean WTF?! She'd let even ppl like you and Stephen Hawking to be killed off, just to save money? Physical ability is not damn everything!! Bah.

yanub: That IRL-SecondLife thing sounds AWESOME. That way I could program my robot avatar to be good at social interaction and fool the NT crowd into accepting me. Mwhaha, world domination!

Anger and jokes aside: this whole "unworthy of life" thing should be the individual's decision, and if that's not available to obtain, then BY DEFAULT every lifeform would want to stay right there, period. I'm saying it while KNOWING that I really AM unworthy of life....meh...

shiva said...

Fucking hell. That's... just WTF????

OK, i don't think "prolonging life at all costs" is necessarily ALWAYS the right thing to do (cos *some* people might prefer to die than live in X circumstance, and IMO that's their right, because the right to life is IMO pretty meaningless without the right *not* to choose life), but "euthanasia" (ie MURDER) of those who are not able to indicate their own wishes is ALWAYS wrong. (I blogged about this in a bit more detail last month:

As for stuff like living on as robots/avatars, and ageism/(non-)acceptance of ageing issues, you might find Anne C's blog "Existence Is Wonderful" interesting: (i really need to comment on the latest couple of posts there...)

Response to your response to me on the gender post coming later... either in the comments, or maybe as a new post on my blog if it gets too long...

Kita said...

I think I am going to find and send you a stuffed squirrel. A toy one. Not a dead stuffed one. You could call it 'The Protector' and set it to attack anyone who pisses you off. I hear those little blighters can do some damage....

As for DNR, I used to think it was a damn good idea. But really, I don't want to die by slowly drying out. So I think I will revise that idea..

How can anyone be so heartless as to speak of a human life as though it was nothing but money. Shows the price of life has diminished somewhat. I suggest watching Scrubs. It has got to be better than.... er... dehydration.

Lene Andersen said...

I am continually amazed by how people feel utterly free to be offensive when you're in a wheelchair. WTF???

Lene Andersen said...

Oops, got trigger happy - clicked post before I was done.

The story of your grandmother's medical "care" horrified me. Diagnosis and treatment over the phone? Exclusively?? How can that even happen? And all these seniors' families just accepted this? Good lord, BC is a parallel reality, innit?

Gaina said...

Have you read anything by the philosopher Peter Singer?

He is of the opinion that doctors should be allowed to euthenize someone who is beyond all hope of recovery rather than cause unnecessary suffering by letting them starve or dehydrate to death. He also has other points of view which I'm not going to get into here because I'm generally in agreement with him on those and I will offend somebody, you can be sure of it! (hey, come read my blog and I'll offend you in my own 'home'! haha).

Death is the one thing we're all heading towards and yet nobody will talk about it and how we choose the time and nature of death. I would make living wills compulsory so that people can decide when they are of sound mind and body exactly how they want the arrangements for the end of their life to be made, with the provision to change this will at any time to take into account people's changing religious and moral views throughout their adult life. This not only takes the pressure off loved ones but also protects sick, elderly and disabled people from being 'hurried along' off the planet!

Mind you, I would really enjoy removing that squirrel-bullying brat from the planet. And steralising his parents so it never happens again.

cheryl g said...

The chipper angel of death lady was really disturbing. The fact that she mistook me for Linda told me she saw you as the wheelchair first with the person being secondary.

The kid chasing and throwing things at the squirrel got my ranger hackles up. I would like the power to invade the dreams of people like that and subject them to the same actions in a nightmare. Perhaps he would change if he had multiple nightmares of a giant being chasing him and pelting him with stuff.

FridaWrites said...

Meredith, I have an autistic son. You are definitely worthy of life. People who don't fully welcome people with disability or discriminate against them are wrong, and I hope people more widely recognize this wrongness as they have racism and sexism. Don't internalize others' actions or words. You're fine as you are.

Elizabeth, I can't believe that woman discussed this with you. Euthanasia is so often portrayed as "should die" rather than "able to request to die if close to it and in continuous intractable pain that cannot be controlled." People are so hostile to those on vents, who are still thinking and living just fine. It is also wrong to put a price on human life, too costly to live. People who think this way will one day find themselves thinking, "Wait a minute! I didn't mean me."

I am outraged that doctors can't be sued or held liable in BC. I assume that, as in the U.S., doctors will self-protect their own kind if charges are brought to the medical board. Lawsuits (and fear of them) are often the only consumer protection available. Yes, they can get out of hand, and I don't like that doctors and nurses are expected to be superhuman and never make a single error, but some provider behavior gets out of hand, too.

Judith said...

I know someone like that. She means no harm and she honestly cannot work out why people go off her - she can however be really offensive. When my husband left me (for someone else) she said that I should tell my children not to mention it to anyone in case he chose to come back! She also thinks it must be wonderful to have my 'independence' - whatever that means to me with three children and a mortgage, working full time plus some. But she means well!!
I am sorry about what happened to your grandmother - it's not ok the way vulnerable people get treated. And it's disgusting to talk about human life in terms of monetary value.

Dawn Allenbach said...

Isn't it amazing how many clueless twits populate our world? We're practically smothering in them!

Meredith -- It's interesting you mention Stephen Hawking. He's been my gimp role model pretty much since I first heard of him, but even more so since I decided to become a scientist. One of the most brilliant minds of our (maybe any time) contained within a crumpled wrapper the majority of the population would despise. I freaking love the Higher's sense of irony!

Tammy said...

Holy Crap. That lady had bigger issues than any of us here if she believes human life, or any life, is attached to a dollar value. You get some really odd people approaching you don't cha? She seems like the type of person who would witness a horrible, tragic accident and relish with great excitement, on retelling the story over and over. What the hell was her point of the story to YOU? "Hey, I saw you on Oxygen. Are you worth the value of that tank of oxygen??" What a complete and total tool.
What a horrible thing that happened to your grandmother. Unbelievable that "family", could do that to someone. No wonder the thought of a DNR makes you queasy.
That poor squirrel. Where were the parents at? They raised the little monster, so I'm sure it wasn't a big deal to them anyways.

em said...

God. It seems like you run into the crazy people. You certainly did this time. Of course it is terrible that this is not only her opinion. This is why the just governments (is there such a thing?) protect the least person's rights instead of the majority's rights.

And the story about your grandmother was terrible too. I'm glad that they aren't in charge of you! At least you have a legally recognized marriage that gives Linda the right to supersede your genetic family's legal say in your care.

Lisa Harney said...

I love how people think it's okay to strike up a conversation about anything no matter how much it's not their business.

I can't stand people who start discussing the disposability of human lives - especially since they're leading straight into the worst kind of ablist final solution. They seem to delight in deciding for other people whether their lives are worth living.

Meredith said...

No, that's not the AS I was talking about. That was my failure of succeeding in fields of 'hard' science (basically the only thing I consider worth knowing) because of dyscalculia. More on my blog later (gotta type up that thing I wrote/drew about my ethical system, based on, well, Kierkegaard minus God, the Hegel triangle, and life experience... it just a little long... :))

Elizabeth McClung said...

Yanub: Well, "medical field" is probably a blown of version of "care worker" - yeah, well, since my grandmother attempted several times to kill my grandfather (he had to be hospitalized), um, it is sort of family tradition (Yup, we're the Addam's Family).

I guess what scares me is the whole way people sort of lump ill/old along with brain dead; the way some people talk about "the damned immigrants" and you say, "Do you mean the illegal immigrants...or your grandparents?"

Well, I think I would want more than an eye link, like one of those new brain joysticks.

Meredith: Yeah, I think stephen hawkings better watch out with her around. Yes, if this is just about money, then they better come quick and harvest my organs while they can.

I actually believe in euthenasia as practiced in Netherlands, an injection into the saline, falling asleep and 20 minutes later gone, after the person has made a rational and clear decision with doctors (in person) that now is the right time. But starve to death, dehydrate to death,count me out!

Shiva: I will go take a look at those post. Because without the context I don't know how to comment except that I don't want this woman in charge of my DNR request.

Kita: Yeah, I need a real "Assistive animal" that keeps people like that at bay!

I still plan to write a DNR, I am just going to make it very clear what can and cannot be done under various circumstances not just the "do not want extra or heroic measures to be taken to keep me alive" - I think if consciousness is present, an IV line of saline is hardly a heroic measure! So, like, for me, unless there is over a certain percentage of brain damage or clear indication of loss of brain function, then I would be taken off ventilation, for example.

Yes, I found it sort of odd that someone older than me, who will be looking TO the health system seems to want to cut corners, do they think they will be spared when it comes to dehumanizing for cost cutting?

Lene: Yeah, not quite understand the whole, "so disgusting" - sort of like talking about how awful those gays are....but of course, I don't mean YOU! Sort of conversation.

Well, this is the retirement capital of Canada and has more people over 65 per capita than anywhere else in North America (maybe parts of florida give it a run for the money).