Do Not Resuscitate–Me

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.

9 thoughts on “Do Not Resuscitate–Me

  1. There’s a hospital around here that seems to have the same feeling you do, that what you want is not important. The last time I went to the hospital… (no one asked me the question) but I was to undergo serious surgery and I tried to bring my living will be bear… along with the person who has my medical power of attorney. Both were banished summerily. I do not do well in hospitals at all. Attitudes like that only make me want to avoid medical intervention at such times. But the more you look into the issue the more you will find it will be quite impossible to follow through in a DNR directive … so your husband should rest assured… I wish you a very long and healthy life.

  2. Beautifully put, Miriam. I hope you’re more comfortable now, and that whatever it was turns out to be simply fluke-ish. I think you’re right; sometimes our lives should not be entirely ours to decide.

  3. I’m with Richard! Well, in this particular case, anyway. Hope you are feeling better and better, and thanks for sharing your musings on this topic.

  4. Miriam! I hope you feel better soon! I’m sorry you’re feeling poorly. This is an important topic that you bring up here–I tend to react like Rich–after being raised Catholic, there’s some imperative to never give up on life, even though we’re supposed to feel reassured that heaven is pretty cool. Not sure I believe in heaven anymore, but I don’t think I or anyone in my clan is good at letting go–maybe that’s the real issue. My husband is the opposite–he doesn’t want to live with any disability and would choose the DNR route, which is a tough one for me. He’s adamant about it too. These are things I never thought about when I was younger. Anyway, sorry you had to think about this last week!

  5. In that same situation, I can see that for me it would be easier to let go of myself/my self than it would be to let go of someone else, especially someone beloved. I’m glad you decided to be kind to Rich and Hope and the rest of us who would like to see you again for breakfast, poetry, tea, cat-petting, gallivanting, sky-watching, and/or all those other potential points in time and space when fun might be had.

  6. first, i do so hope you are on the mend and feeling better and better- what a jolt to see your note. please let me know if there is anything i can do to help you – i’m a very reliable errand girl, and good for other things too. as for your short essay – i’m now 70 (how wierd is that), but have people around me keep reminding this is “the new 50” .. it is good to read your notes on the topic of resuscitation, be reminded of this dimension of my own life. it is perhaps a situational decision – weighed against the potential for a good outcome. get better! send a note if you need any kind of help. abrazos

  7. Pingback: More on Habits: the worst one I will never change | Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

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