My 87 year old father passed away three weeks ago of a massive brain hemorrage. In the time since, I am unable to shake a feeling of guilt among other emotions. In the midst of rushing to the emergency room, I forgot to grab his POLST off the refrigerator in my parent’s apartment. I thought I knew what it said, as I had read it a while back and provided copies to the retirement facility and his doctor. When faced in the emergency room with an x-ray and two neurosurgeons predicting paralysis, possible loss of speech and a very stormy future should he somehow make it through surgical measures, I felt that the option of comfort care only made sense. My Dad had recently returned from a nursing facility after recovering from pneumonia and he had firmly stated, several times, that he NEVER wanted to return there . Even if some miracle occurred, he would end up back at the nursing home for months, if not forever.
My beloved Dad was dying. I wanted to save him – to fix things somehow – but I couldn’t. My Mom was unable to make any decisions in the heat of the moment, so it was left up to me. Keeping him comfortable to the end seemed the only way and when I asked the second neurosurgeon if I was making the right decision, she was supportive. The doctors asked about intubation; I said I believed he would not have wanted that; that he would not have wanted any kind of invasive measures under the circumstances. They moved him to a private room as he fell into a coma, kept him hydrated and administered morphine if he exhibited signs of discomfort or restlessness. My dad passed away the following day.
A week later, when helping my Mom in their apartment, I noticed his POLST on the refrigerator and removed it. When I got home, I read it. It indicated that he wanted full treatment including intubation with a time limited trial on a ventilator for a reversible cause of respiratory failure, antibiotics if medically indicated and a defined trial of artificial nutrition by tube.
In my head, I know that a massive brain hemorrhage is what it is. A big IF he survived surgery, he would have been a prisoner in a facility he absolutely detested, in a body that was no longer his own to control. In my heart, I am filled with doubt that I did the “right thing”. Did I, didn’t I? Has anyone ever has this experience??? Written by Louise in Arkansas