Friday, November 24, 2006

Here's Where I've been

To the the vast yet ever-contracting Daddy D readership, I apologize for the extended absence. The last few weeks have been challenging.

If you have a family member with a "living will," take the existence of that document seriously. The idea that you may have to make decisions based on its contents is easy to embrace. If the execution of those wishes slaps you in the face, reality stings. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on the sofa watching football when my cell phone rang. The call was from a nearby hospital; the person on the other end was looking for my brother's nearest relative. He is divorced and has no children, so that distinction falls squarely on my shoulders. The voice on the phone said, "we need you to come here right away."
I arrived at the emergency room to receive the sobering news that my brother, who had been swimming laps in a nearby pool, had been found unconscious on the bottom. He was blue, he was not breathing and his eyes were fixed. He had been pulled from the pool, and a physician who coincidentally was swimming nearby administered CPR. Now, an hour or so later, he had been revived but was considered "extremely critical." There was significant concern that he would not live through the night. If he did, the damage to his brain could not be determined. He was not breathing on his own and there was no way to determine if he would regain the ability to do so.
The next morning, we were engaged in active discussions about organ donation. I called his lawyer and got the living will. There it was, in stark black and white: the decision to withdraw life-saving measures belonged solely to me. For days, my only brother lay motionless in an intensive care bed. The condition of his body and the status of his brain were in considerable doubt. We all grew up Roman Catholic, so a priest was summoned. He administered the 'last rights," and told us my brother had been absolved of all his sins and was ready to make the great journey.
The days passed and slowly he began to breathe a little on his own. He cleared a major hurdle and it became clear that he would not die, but the level to which his mind would function remained very much in doubt. The only way we would know, we were told, is by having a conversation with him. We could not do that until the beathing tube was removed, and that was several days away.
I'm happy to report that he is presently awake and alert and speaking in complete sentences. His congnitive abilities clearly are improving every day, but still he is obviously impaired. The rate of his progress is encouraging and now there's reason to hope he will make a complete recovery. However, he clearly cannot go home alone. He will need rehabilitation. He is able to participate in the decision-making process, but the days ahead will be challenging as we determine together how he will spend the next few weeks.
He doesn't remember what happened, but he has been told time and again how serious his condition has been. The man who saved his life has visited him several times. The nursing staff has expressed amazement at his progress. He doesn't remember seeing a light or anything like that, so you have to wonder about all that absolution. You have to have faith, though...faith that there is a journey to make when your time comes and faith that a second chance at life will not be wasted. I'll keep you posted.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Darrell - You HAVE been missed, and we will keep your brother and your entire family in our prayers!

Kathryn Usher said...

Darrell- Sorry to hear about your brother. Hope he continues to improve.