Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Published at youandmemagazine.com

In Franz Kafka’s novelette, “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find he has been transformed into a giant insect, a giant beetle. The story continues with the shocked response of his family and others who come to the home, his alienation from them all, and his rapid demise, partly out of consideration for his family.

When Tina awoke from her medically-induced coma in early March of 2004, she was herself in a shocking situation: no longer able to move arms or hands, still unable to move legs or feet, given oxygen through a tube passing over her lips, past the larynx, into the windpipe. Gregor Samsa could speak, with difficulty, but Tina could not at all. I cannot imagine how she felt.

Fortunately, we had a nurse she knew, Terry Bush, there in the mornings, and I was there in the afternoons, and we could help with her care, with assurance, with communicating with a list of common words or by spelling out very short sentences, guessing the letters and getting her blinks or smiles in response.

It was at this time when one of the attempts to get us to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was made. A couple of medical professionals (doctors? nurses?) had come into the room and were urging this on her. She was in no condition to disagree with the people she was so dependent on, but I had her Power of Attorney and was in fine condition to say, “No!”

When your life has been turned upside down, you are in poor shape to give “informed consent.” Health Proxies, predicting what you would want done, do not necessarily reflect how you will feel at the time they come into play, nor how you would feel about the consequences, if you were alive later to reflect on them.

Tina chose to live, and we are all grateful for that.

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