June 6 1944 our forces invaded Normandy. thousand of lives were lost that day. We should never forget
June 6 1944 our forces invaded Normandy. thousand of lives were lost that day. We should never forget
I’m sure some of my acquaintances will tell me I shouldn’t have posted this to my blog. They may be right but I feel compelled to post it because it might help someone. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do? I want to help anyone who has a relationship with a spouse who has had a stroke or will have to minister to the family of a stroke victim. Knowing what the victim and the care givers go through will help you minister to them better.
I’m standing in the emergency room of the hospital eight months ago (July 4,2011). My wife (Jan) has just had a stroke and they are asking me for permission to intubate her. We had a no resuscitation clause in our will and I had a durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. Jan was unconscious, but she could squeeze my hand.
What do I say to them? Intubate or not intubate – it’s a life determining decision.
I let them intubate my wife –because she could squeeze my hand. I know- my decision went against what my wife and I had talked about. But when faced with pulling the plug on someone you love, it’s not that easy.
Here’s what I’ve learned since then.
Life has been challenging for me and the two care givers who have been with us all along. But Jan has had some very good days along with her share of bad days. Some of the times she laughs and teases and has a good time. Not too many days ago she was on our back deck in the sun pulling her pant legs in order to get more sun. She said “This is wonderful.” I told her she was flashing our neighbors. She laughed and kept on pulling her pants legs up to get more rays.
But then… there are the times when nothing goes right. Like last week when she was in the hospital for a week.
But here is what all close relatives of stroke victims need to know – if you refuse intubation you will never know the possible extent of the recovery. My wife’s stroke was worse than a normal stroke. They told me it was a moderate stroke – that’s code for a bad stroke – doctors tend to have trouble with the truth. So, if you are faced with such a decision, push your doctor to tell you the way it is. They won’t unless you do.
The second week in the hospital following the stroke Jan was having severe breathing problems. I asked the doctor what he thought her chances were. He said to me “Not good. We can pull the oxygen and let her go if you want. We all have different religious values so it’s up to you.”
That was one of the low points of my life. One of our care givers was there beside me and heard the doctor’s comments, so we discussed it. I called our daughter and we talked. Finally I decided not to take the oxygen off. I’m glad I didn’t. Jan recovered and after five months in a rehab center, better known as a Nursing Home, I took her home where we could be together and she could be with her dogs and birds and pelicans. She has always fed any live creature she could. She continues to do just that only through my hands. But it makes her smile.
I pray no one reading this will ever face this situation. But if you do, and if you take a bad stroke victim home, you do you have to be prepared for the inevitable- 24/7 care and a lot of expense. That is what it takes today to keep Jan at home. I thank God we had the resources to take her home. The experience in the Nursing home was far from pleasant even though she was in a private room. It was one of the best in our area. I will never forget the almost constant shrill of the Call Button going off from one of the residents all day and all night.
One more thing to be prepared for- your patience will be sorely tested. Maybe that is what I am supposed to learn through all of this. I’ve never been a patient person. But dealing with a stroke victim who can’t do much for themselves requires tons of patience.
Now Jan has some good days and is up several hours a day. But we have to use a sling and lift to get her out of bed. She can only turn over on one side. She has to have her diapers changed in a regular basis day. We are blessed to have a doctor who will come to the house – they are rare. She has a nurse who comes by now and then, a bather who comes twice a week, and therapists who come two or three times a week. Sometimes she can participate in the therapy and sometimes she can’t. The only two things she can do are feed herself and brush her hair. Everything else must be done for her.
As I write these words a horrible thought came to me – how would my wife feel about sharing this with the public? After all it’s not a pretty picture. I think, no I know, she would want me to share our experience if it would help anyone to make the decision to take their loved one home.
Would I do it all over again? You bet I would. The day I brought her home she looked me in the eye, took my hand, and said “thank you.” Several times since, she has put her hand on my face and said “I love you.” You have to know, my wife has never been overly demonstrative.
Has it been easy? Not at all. It has changed everything. But has it been worth it and would I recommend giving your loved one a second chance? Oh Yes. I would have felt guilty for the rest of my life if I had not allowed them to incubate my wife. One never knows. I still have hope that she will get better even though she is 73.
Last week Jan was in the hospital for a week with a serious infection. The week after returning home have been the best five days she has had since the stroke seven months ago. Go figure.
Have there been times when I have questioned my judgment – of course. But would I do it again – you bet.
Life is a crap shoot. And we never know the outcome. However, one thing is for certain – if you pull the plug, life is over.
Now you need to know that twice over the last four years I have been called to the hospital to sign a No Resuscitation order better know as a DRN. So what I’ve shared is not some Polly Anna piece. Life and death decisions do not come easy. You need to talk this over with your spouse before you face such a decision. And you need a will. You need one, NOW no matter how young you are.
But in the final test, you have to trust your instinct in situations like this and when all else fails, err on the side of caution. You can always pull the plug later.
I hope this helps someone.
Moving through life is like reading chapters in a book. Most people read one chapter at a time. Life is the same – as you move through life you open and close one chapter at a time with each chapter usually focusing on a different theme or emphasis.
I remember when I closed the chapter on pastoring a church. After thirty years of being a pastor God decided it was time for me to begin a ministry of consulting. So my wife and I launched out into a totally new chapter of our lives. It was a scary time as it usually is when following God’s lead.
Closing a chapter on one’s life requires looking forward and putting the past behind. That doesn’t mean you don’t build on the experiences of the past but it does mean that the future experiences are your primary focus. Great leaders are always focused on the future rather than the past or even the present.
Well, once again my wife and I have closed a chapter and are beginning a new one together. Her stroke has changed most every thing about our lives. The challenge in this chapter of our lives will be to find ways to believe that the best is yet to come. Although that could be a formidable challenge, hints of the way forward are already emerging -even under these circumstances we have spent more quality time together these past six months than in the last six years.
I was having a conversation with a man about my age when I noticed that every thing he talked about was in the past. This man was healthy. He had all his faculties. Yet he lived totally in chapters of his life that had been closed for some time. I felt sorry for him. I don’t want to get that way. I belive as long as we are alive God has something for us to do. In my wife’s case, it is to teach me patience and caring.
So, even though this new chapter is a bit scary and overwhelming, I’m anticipating God doing something wonderful as we move though it. I’ll keep you posted.
We brought Jan home today. What an experience. Now the journey begins. I will be keeping a log of our experience in the hope that some day it may help some other person who attempts this. I learned today that she is taking over 20 meds at four different intervals, including blog sugar and blood pressure checks four times a day. But she is home.
Those of you who know me know that care giving is not one of my strengths so I cover your prayers while I learn a new skill. I’ve alreay learned that patience is truly a virtue.
When Jan learned she was actually going home she took my hand and said “thank you.” I almost lost it.
Thanks to all of you who have endured my posts about Jan, prayed for us both, and my understood my absence on the web. I hope to return to bloggin this week.
So when we visited my twin cousins one December I was in for the shock of my life. One afternoon our parents sent us out to shop for Christmas- the twins were in their teens and I was about 10. We were on our way to a store that had the gift I wanted to get for my parents when we passed Santa standing by a big black pot – you know, the Salvation Army. Without warning the twins grabbed my wallet and gave all of my money to Santa. I was- well I can’t say how I felt on paper. After all, that was my hard earned money during the year and they gave it all away.
Later when I became a Christian I understand what they were trying to tell me – it was better to give to those who had little than to buy a gift for people who had too much already.
Many years later my wife and I took the Christmas thing a bit further and ceased giving gifts at Christmas. Instead we gave the amount to the church that we would have spent. And guess what- we never again had to experience the Christmas rush and push of shopping – there wasn’t internet shopping back then.
Christmas is just around the corner. I hope you are prepared for it and that you haven’t felt the pressure to give to someone who most probably already has more than they need.
So I encourage you to pick some needy cause of person and spend that money on them. You will never regret doing so.
Have a blessed Christmas
I sat watching my recorded session of Meet The Press. I had a tear in my eye. 20 years ago the Berlin Wall came down and freedom was returned to East Germany. It was a great site to watch again how the people from both sides of the Wall celebrated its destruction. Hammers, picks, screwdrivers, you name it, were used to do away with one of the most brutal symbols of evil in our lifetime.
Then a horrible feeling crept into my heart- the more freedom people have the more complacent they become. Nowhere is this truth more pronounced than in our faith. It seems the more freedom people have the less they understand the importance of their faith and begin to take it forgranted. But bring in persecution, as we have seen around the world (take the Mao regime for example), and the more faith people begin to exhibit.
Bonhoeffer, in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, called it cheap grace- Grace which is presumed upon, taken for granted, and in the worse cases spit upon.
God help us Americans not to take either our freedom or our faith for granted. Both are precious and both should be worth giving our all.