Do You Want to be Resuscitated?
We all take for granted that when we go to a hospital for an emergency, the doctors, nurses and staff are trying to save our life. This was the assumption I was under when my husband had a stroke in February 2008.
Little did I know that the ER doctor placed him under a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). It was coded into his identification wristband, so every time it was scanned to administer medication, the DNR was noted.
Of course, I didn't know this until three days later. The doctors were very concerned that the swelling in Steve's brain would trigger a series of other strokes, which would most likely prove fatal. I overheard the neurologist say to another doctor out in the hallway that if that happened, Steve was under a DNR.
When I heard that, I recalled something that happened in the emergency room the night of the stroke. The neurologist asked Steve if he wanted to be resuscitated. Steve paused for a minute and then in his slurred speech said "No". He was so confused, so I thought that was an odd question for the doctor to ask him, especially since he failed to explain to Steve just exactly what that meant. But there was so much going on, I didn't give it another thought...until I overheard that hallway conversation.
This troubled and angered me at the same time. When I went home that night, I dug out our critical papers. And I prayed that Steve would be okay, because I knew no measures would be taken to save his life. They would just let him die.
Just three months before, Steve and I drew up our end-of-life papers, which included a Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and Durable Power of Attorney for financial decisions (POA). I knew exactly what his wishes were.
The next morning I asked the doctor if the DNR meant that they wouldn't even try CPR on him if he needed it, and he said that was correct. I told him that I was Steve's health care agent and had the Power of Attorney for Health Care, and I wanted the DNR removed. He argued with me for a minute or two until I told him that I knew what Steve's wishes were, because I had all the paperwork with me. On that note, he gave orders to remove the DNR and put Steve on a full resuscitate code, and I watched while they switched out his wristband.Continued on the next page