I never expected to have to make life and death decisions for my Ma. As Ma’s health has deteriorated over the last few years I’ve taken control of all of her medications and medical appointments. If difficult questions were asked over treatment, Ma would turn and look at me to answer, trusting that I would do the right thing by her. So much so, that she made me her Enduring Guardian. This gives me the right to make life and death decisions on her behalf when she is unable to do so. It allows me to ‘play’ God on her behalf.
When I placed her in the nursing home we had to fill out paperwork for her ‘end of life’ wishes. Did she want to be resuscitated in the event of heart failure? Did she want to be intubated? Ma has always said to me that she didn’t want this so I signed the paperwork to say ‘no resuscitation’. This means that if she is sick and requires antibiotics or anything else, she will be taken care of but if her heart stops, nobody does anything to try and get it going again. Hard core stuff.
Early Monday morning the nursing home rang me to tell me Ma was ill and that she had a high temperature, her oxygen levels were low, her heart was not good and she was incoherent and did I want to send her to hospital. Of course I said yes and she was taken into Emergency with severe, uncontrollable pain; a raging infection in her newly ulcerated leg in fact. Again I was asked the question of resuscitation and what my wishes were in her care. Again I had to say to let her go if heart failure occurred.
Ma was crying with pain. She could barely verbalise as she was in too much pain to do so. I held her hand and tried to take her mind off it. They pumped three different types of IV antibiotics into her without waiting for test results and gave her three different pain medications. All without giving her relief. She cried at me, asking me to knock her on the head so she wouldn’t feel the pain any more. She called out to God and then told me he wasn’t listening, telling me he didn’t answer her.
I prayed to God to end her pain, to let her die.
A few hours later and she was feeling better. The pain was more manageable and she’d been moved to a bed. She was bright. Later in the day the Dr told me she’d also had a mild heart attack and what did I want to do about it. I told him I didn’t want any further trauma to ma and he said they would monitor and he would tell me if something had to be done.
I returned to work the next day but told the hospital to ring me if she became distressed. When I arrived in the afternoon they went through her notes with me. The read out the phase, ‘daughter refused treatment’. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder whether they think I’m a bad daughter for refusing treatment?’ I hate that I’m making life and death decisions on her care. She keeps telling me how sick and tired she is of being poked and prodded.
Today I arrived and was stopped by the day nurses who told me that Ma had had a very bad day and was very distressed. I could hear her yelling and crying from her room. They’d had to give her an enema and then had to turn her to clean her up. My sister and I gave her a couple of cappuccinos that made her feel better. She started to become less distressed and we helped her eat some dinner. She then developed chest pain and started crying, becoming very distressed, again, praying to God and telling me he doesn’t listen.
The doctor on call came and she told me Ma’s heart had been ‘playing up’ for the last couple of days and that ‘I wanted no intervention’. I explained that Ma’s heart and blood pressure medications had been changed only in the last week and she decided to place her back on one.
Right decision, wrong decision, I don’t know. I know in my heart that Ma’s tired and wants to rest. She doesn’t want to be pushed and pulled and ordered about any more. She doesn’t want to be in pain anymore. She told me she’d like to go stay on an island somewhere or just sit in her cottage. She wants peace. I’m ready to let her go but I still second guess every decision I make. She’s still giving me cheek, talking about the kitties and discussing day to day things. This makes my decisions all the harder.
My wish is that she’d just slip away in her sleep. Much as I love her, I want her to have her peace. I want her to be without pain. I want her to have her rest. I want to have done my best by her. I suppose I want forgiveness also.