When you're legally appointed by a person to have authority to make decisions for business reasons and medical purposes, you're their Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA).
We all hope this day will never come, but it'll happen when you cannot make medical decisions for yourself. Then what? You better hope you put in place somebody you want to be your agent for your medical decisions.
In my previous blog, I left you with my sister, Peggy lying in a hospital bed for five days waiting to see if the surgeon would agree to do by-pass surgery on her. My daughter had to get back to work in Florida. I was staying at my sister's home and driving to the hospital every day. Not knowing what was going to be the final decision on her care was tough. My sister's arms were black and blue from where they kept poking her with needles. Keeping her diabetes managed would decrease the risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, and a multitude of other things. While Peggy and I were alone in the small hospital room she confessed she'd been having severe shoulder pain that caused her on multiple occasions to stop her car and chew aspirins. She knew there was something wrong with her heart two years ago. Heart disease runs in our family. My father died at 45 from a heart attack. My mom had her first one at 65 and then passed at 72. Peggy had a stress test done several years earlier, but nothing showed up. For a year or more she had made excuses for why she felt bad. Taking care of her husband had consumed her life.
Good news. The surgeon agrees to do the surgery. Friday at 6:30am. At this point, my sister was relieved and ready to get it over with.
I spent the night at the hospital the night before the surgery. A little after 6am they wheeled her to the Pre-operative holding area. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself. Then his assistant gave Peggy a sedative. We felt optimistic as I squeezed her hand and told her I loved her and would see her soon. I was instructed by a nurse that it was time for me to leave. I gathered up my bag and was about to leave when I heard the nurse in a panic voice say, "I can't find the paper with the patient's signature authorizing us to do surgery". She thumbed through all the papers attached to a folder and asked another nurse to put a fresh pair of eyes on them. Then the second nurse said call downstairs and see if they have the signed form. The answer was no. I'm looking at Peggy who was oblivious to the situation. I could only imagine if my sister was told later that they didn't do the surgery because they had not had her sign the form. She had already spent an agonizing week in the hospital. I asked if my sister could sign now since she was still awake. "No," I'm told because she was under the influence of a drug. The nurse once again started thumbing through the papers attached to the folder. I asked, "Can I sign for her?" The nurse wheeled around and told me, "Not unless you somehow have the DPOA on you." I think I stunned her when I replied, "As a matter of fact I do."
After 4 ½ hours in surgery, Peggy was taken to a recovery room with other patients just out of surgery. I'm allowed a brief visit. Peggy was having severe pain and felt she couldn't bear it any longer. She begged me to pull the plug and just let her go. I asked a nurse to give her something to help control the pain. It was at this time I felt unsteady on my feet and when I touched my forehead, I felt beads of sweat. The nurse instructed me to follow her and sit down. After giving me orange juice, I'm told to go get a bite to eat. I can come back and see Peggy before I head home.
I get a bite to eat and sit and rest for a short time. I made all the calls to tell everybody she was okay. My husband who was on standby back in Colorado, wanted to know if I wanted him to fly in. I had asked him to wait till I got my sister home to come because I felt I'd need a break by then. No, I assured him, I'm fine.
When I walked back into the recovery room my thoughts were hoping my sister's pain management was better. I was just in the door when I froze. In the bed next to my sister, the patient was having a defibrillator used on him. I thought he must be dying. The paddles placed on his chest made him bounce. A nurse quickly came over and escorted me out of the room. The experience upset me so much I fished out my cell phone from my purse and called my husband saying, "You need to come now."
Home at Last
Prepared: properly expectant, organized, or equipped; ready
My sister did not bleed during surgery. She had quadruple by-pass. Now she is at home putting her health first. Peggy is determined to get better. The dreaded thought of exercising is now part of her daily routine. She is losing weight and eating three meals a day at regular times. No more late-night eating. Her pain is still bad. Hopefully, with time, it will get less and less.
My sister thought she was prepared for a crisis, but she wasn't. We had never had the conversation about what to do if something did happen to her. Her documents on where she kept all her finances needed to be updated for me. I now have signed copies of her Advanced Directive for healthcare and DPOA. I have since learned you can use a scan app to load them into your phone. Just as I found out you need to have those on you at all times.
A crisis is a crisis because we can't predict when it will happen. It is important that you plan now. Your personal representative needs to know about your finances, have a copy of your DPOA, and knows what your end-of-life care wishes are. You need to keep having conversations with your family and your designated agent. Things change in your life and when you have an understanding of what matters most to your loved one, then making decisions is easier. And put those wishes in writing.