What Happens When You’re Ready, But Mom Doesn’t Die?
Meet the Yin family. At 83, mom was weak and ill from stage IV lymphoma and atrial fibrillation. She’d gone through exhaustive chemotherapy and she’d run out of options. Yet it was still a surprise when the doctors told the family that she had fewer than six months to live and it was time to consider hospice care. Read about what happens with the Yin family. They were ready, but Mom doesn’t die.
Most concerned about extended suffering and loss of control
What Mrs. Yin feared most was pointless suffering and the loss of control over her own life. She wanted her kids to understand that, if she had little hope of recovery, she’d rather go quickly than die slowly and painfully. Her son wanted to pursue every possible option to keep their mother alive.
Her daughter supported their mother’s pragmatic right to die on her own terms
The daughter remembered when their grandmother died. “We sat by her bed and told family stories as she slipped into unconsciousness. We drew close to one another and time seemed to stop. We held her as she took her last breaths, letting her know how much we loved her. It taught me that dying well can be a natural experience.”
Together, the family agreed on a trip to New York’s Sloan Kettering for a comprehensive diagnosis. After some tests, Mrs. Yin’s blood pressure dropped dangerously low, and she was admitted as an inpatient. By the next day, she could hardly breathe, and a doctor activated her Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR).
Then, back from the brink . . .
A hospice nurse, who is uniquely trained for just this kind of situation, checked on Mrs. Yin and came back to tell the family that she didn’t think their mother was going to die that night, the next night or maybe for weeks. The family reversed the DNR and doctors initiated treatment.
Over the next month, the hospital’s medical teams worked together to bring Mrs. Yin back to relatively good health. She was transferred to a rehabilitation center for another month, then came to live with her daughter’s family in Brooklyn. She and her daughter fulfilled one of her longtime dreams. They edited and self-published her memoirs, which she’d been writing for years.
Mrs. Yin still wrestles with neuropathy, shortness of breath and sometimes crushing fatigue, but she is very much alive. She’s been living on her own for the past two years and still enjoys a very good quality of life.
The power of the family’s collective decision-making
In retrospect, the family reflected on their mother’s care and their own roles in the treatment process. “We made better decisions because we listened to one another and weighed all the conflicting information. My mother acknowledges that she wanted to “pull the plug” too soon because she became overwhelmed by fear.
No one thinks clearly or acts well when gripped by panic
This story by Monona A. Yin, in The New York Times, pointsout the need to start talking long before the end. We need to have open dialogs with our families about what constitutes a good death and when a diminished life is no longer worth living.