Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do Not Resign, Do Not Ignore

To DNR or not to DNR, that is the question:

I refuse to have a DNR or DNI order for myself. Go ahead, doctor and family, give me some comfort meds, then shock me, tube me and line me.

Life is precious and irreplaceable. Even severe incurable illness can often be temporarily fixed, moderated or controlled, and most discomfort can be made tolerable or even pleasant with simple drugs. In chess, to resign is to give up the game with pieces and options remaining. My version of DNR is "Do Not Resign." Don't give up on me if I can still think, communicate, create and enjoy life. When taking care of me, take care of yourself as well, to make sure you don't burn out by the time I need your optimism the most.

My DNI? It means "Do Not Ignore" early signs of trouble when my failing body and mind need support so I can continue to function in ways that matter. And Do Not Ignore my needs for companionship, stimulation and purpose, as these, too, make life worth living. To leave me in the hospital bed alone staring at the TV is torture. Surround me with people: Bring the kids so I can teach and talk to them. Discuss the news with me. Let me use my e-mail. Treat my depression, dehydration, malnutrition, muscle wasting and pain with potent pills, infusions, tubes and hormones.

Recall the great people of our time who thrived with disability and my willingness to savor life just like them. Give me a motorized wheelchair and a feeding tube if I need them, along with a tracheostomy to help me breathe and dialysis to filter out toxins. Those do nothing to stop a good mind and a strong spirit, while permitting both to overcome obstacles of blood and flesh.

It's so easy to let someone die, but it takes effort, determination and stamina to help someone stay and feel alive. Only after you made every effort to let me be happy and human, ask me again if my life is worth living. Then, listen and comply. At that point, if I wish to die, let me die. But until that happens, none of us realizes what I can accomplish with another day, another week, another month. So do it all for me. Then ask someone to do it all for you.

Unless we spend our lives fighting to live, when the Dark Embrace attempts to enfold us, we may lack the skill and discipline needed to make it very hard to move on.