Thursday, January 22, 2009

Michigan: When Enough Is Enough

I am sitting here, gazing out the hospital window as my grandfather is sleeping, contemplating the wonders of modern medicine and asking myself when enough is enough. On one hand I am so VERY thankful that grandpa is doing better, he was in acute kidney failure due to a terrible bladder infection I am happy he is here for me to talk to and laugh with but I am also concerned with the definition of quality of life.

My grandpa is a proud 86 year old man who up until a month ago was in great health, now he is lying in a bed on such a cocktail of drugs that he is sleeping most of the time and so weak that he cannot even go to the bathroom by himself. He was within an hour of dying his kidneys were so bad. If it was 100 years ago he would have passed away in his sleep or surrounded by family in his own bed from some unknown ailment. Now because we can cure so much and prolong life he is looking at constant pain, lost of any type of mobility, and since he lives alone and refuses to go to a nursing home he will need to be watched by a family member or nurse 24 hours a day. The work that the family does is not the problem at all. We love him so much and we would keep him with us forever but that is a very selfish reason, a reason that we feel like we need him here. What about what he wants, I think the problem is will he be happy living this way.

How far should we push technology, when are we going to far, is it worth it to keep pushing death further and further, he is exhausted from everything we have done to save him. Are we just being selfish trying to keep our elders around? What kind of life will he be leading? Is that I life I would ever want?

His wife is gone, all his brother and sisters are gone, all his friends are gone, all his cousins are gone. Because he was the youngest of the family and the healthiest the only people left that he loves are his children and grandchildren. That has to be so sad living when so many of everyone you know are gone. Our immediate biggest worry right now when he gets released from the hospital is preventing him from falling and breaking a hip or getting pneumonia, keep his health stable or preferably getting better, and most importantly keeping him out of a nursing home where he will just give up and waste away. I am so sorry to see him like this, feeling like a burden, not being able to do the simplest things himself. I hope he gets better, and happier, and healthier or that his end comes quickly and painlessly in his sleep.

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