A few days ago, I was hospitalized briefly with some very unpleasant symptoms. Many tests ruled out anything too nasty, and I’m home in a convalescent manner. My memory is uncertain about some bits, but I clearly remember the doctor asking if I wanted to be resuscitated. Now I was conscious, and not facing surgery, but it is the standard question.
Immediately I said, “No.”
Now this may seem irrational. I’m not yet 60, and most of the time I’m walking around and employed full time, busy with family and friends and projects. But I have my own private relationship with the specter of death and extreme disability (As I assume do all of us) and in that vulnerable moment I just said no to extreme measures.
Then I saw my husband Rich’s face. Not only had he taken me to the ER, waited on me hand and foot, worried, and generally been angelic–we did not agree about certain end of life options. I tend to the “Let the undertow take me” school while he is of the “let’s live as long as possible because there might be fun or at least lunch ahead” view.
I may have gained some wisdom in my years. “What would YOU like?” I asked him.
“Resuscitate,” he said.
My friend Hope, as positive as her name, was also keeping us company (and stable) in the hospital. She looked worried, too. I could not disappoint Rich.
“Ok,” I said. “Resuscitation is fine.”
Hope smiled. Rich looked relieved. The doctor regarded me briefly with an eye for emotional instability.
What did I learn? That I do know my own mind. And that what I want just isn’t that important.