As a nurse, I’d always thought about NHDD as a useful reminder about planning for the future. For my patients, as well as for myself.
But now, it reminds me of the past.
You see, NHDD is when I made my husband DNR. Do Not Resuscitate. No Code.
And when I did, I knew the end would be soon.
Not some distant, unknown day that we tried to envision in some fictitious scenario.
No. With this decision, I knew his end would be
Today. Tomorrow. Maybe the next day, if we were lucky.
This day is a reminder of bitter, painful memories and prolonged, exhausting grief.
Yet this day is also sweet.
Knowing that MY DECISION on his behalf SPARED HIM untold suffering.
HE didn’t have to experience
Fighting a ventilator as it tried to push air into the scarred, inefficient lungs;
That were far too small for his massive frame.
Being unable to control what was happening to him,
What people were doing to him,
Or even his own body,
Unable to communicate his needs, wants and fears.
WE didn’t have to experience
Days on end, riding the roller coaster of futile ICU care.
Watching him fight the vent, suffering, in agony.
Living with PTSD-triggered memories of his distress.
Then finally, withdrawing life support.
MY DECISION on HIS BEHALF
Gave us time together
One last day that we controlled.
As we watched and waited.
Just BEING together.
For the last time.
We watched reruns of sit-coms we had enjoyed together on TV.
We ordered in our favorite Chinese food.
We remembered hilarious things he had said and done.
We just hung out together.
One last time.
As we sensed the end of our vigil drawing near,
We left our recliners and stood by his bed.
We talked with him.
Held his hand.
Smoothed his hair, over his slack-jawed, peaceful face.
And finally, we said goodbye
As he slipt away.
On HIS timeline.
His agonal breaths stopped.
Then his pulse stopped.
Finally, his pacemaker stopped.
After trying and failing to trigger his heart into action,
As it had so faithfully done over the six years it had given us together.
I live with the knowledge that MY DECISIONS on HIS BEHALF were what he wanted.
I have no regrets.