Dying is a lonely journey. Not only for the sick person but also for the family. As hard as we may try to avoid death, the truth is that we do a lousy job of it. Science and medicine will certainly postpone it, even staying healthy might seem to delay it, but the harsh reality is that death does not wait for you, it does not ask you, and it does not listen to you. Death ignores your feelings and wants; you do not matter to death…Death is the only certainty in life! We need to remember that our existence here is fragile, and we never have as much time with people as we think we do. If there is someone or someones out there that you love, don’t neglect that and don’t put off engaging with them because waits for no-one… Vic's Journey ended on 18 January 2013 at 10:35. She was the most courageous person in the world and has inspired thousands of people all over the world. Vic's two boys are monuments of her existence. She was an amazing mother, daughter, sister and friend. I will miss you today, tomorrow and forever my Angle Child.
Over the past 10 years I have seen my child suffer so much indignity and indescribable pain. I have seen the despair in her eyes, the helplessness in the eyes of her boys….I have stood next to her bed and physically pulled my hair in frustration – tears pouring down my cheeks. I have wept before God and prayed for Vic to die. I begged God to take away her suffering.
I advocated the right to die with dignity.
Vic has been in the care of Hospice for the past 3 months. In this time Vic has been given a new lease on life. Hospice cannot change the prognosis but they have given Vic quality of Life. For the past three months Vic has been able to occasionally get out of bed, go for milkshakes with her boys, she went to Jared’s confirmation and Jon-Daniel’s honours evening. She completed her photo albums.
Vic is in renal and hepatic failure. Her tissue is horrendous. Her pain is under control! As and when symptoms surface, Vic’s medication is adjusted. She is treated with compassion and respect. Her wish is the teams command….
As the situation is now I am so grateful that my child is alive. I treasure every breath that she takes. We chat, laugh and cry. We dream of going to Italy in 2013.
So given the situation now what would I advocate – The right to die with dignity or the right to live?
I have no doubt that if Vic’s pain and symptoms got worse, I would want her suffering to end. If it remains as great as it is now of course I want her to live. But it is key that Vic is allowed to live with Dignity!
As much as I advocate the right to die with dignity I believe that the final decision lies with the sick person. It is not for family or physicians to play God. The patient has to be the only decision maker.
I must admit that if the decision was mine to make, my child’s suffering would have ended a long time ago.
We all have the right to Live with Dignity. There is a huge difference between breathing and living…
Today, having a loved one live with a terminal diagnosis for an extended period of time is fast replacing sudden and unexpected death as the norm. Ultimately, many will reach a point where medical technology may be able to keep them alive but can neither restore their health nor even improve their condition. In actual fact they are merely kept breathing…. More treatment will only prolong their dying.
It is at this point that patients and families face difﬁcult choices about the kind of care they want….
I have seen studies that clearly show that patients who access Hospice, earlier in the disease process, actually live longer than expected. Ironically it seems that Hospice, with its emphasis on quality of life, actually keeps people going. When people who are ill have good pain and symptom control and their caregivers are well supported, they don’t want to give up; they want to live longer.
Vic has reached a stage in her life where she wants to die. She has absolutely no quality of life and is growing weaker by the day. Everyday Vic loses a little more of her independence and dignity. Vic needs help with almost all her day-to-day activities.
Opinion polls decisively show that most people would prefer to die at home, free from pain and surrounded by their loved ones. Sadly people often die alone in hospitals or nursing homes, attached to life support machines they do not want. It is also a fact thatmany terminally ill people die excruciating painful deaths because, even in death, their doctors suffer from Opiophobia…
“Opiophobia is the syndrome of failure to administer adequate opioid analgesics because of the fear of producing addiction or toxicity. The etiology of opiophobia is multifactorial: Peer pressure (provider and patient), regulatory agency pressure (real or perceived), and lack of education on opioids and the fundamentals of pain management all contribute to its persistence…. All of these factors contribute to the underuse of these relatively simple and very effective medications, due to no fault of the patients. ” University of Wisconsin textbook on pain medicine, Bonica’s Management of Pain, 3rd edition:
I promised Vic no more surgery and no more hospitals. https://tersiaburger.com/2012/06/01/1-6-2012 The only humane option left is Hospice. I have been fighting for Hospice to get involved with Vic’s palliative care not to hasten her death but to enhance her quality of life!
WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE
Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:
provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
WHAT TO EXPECT
Should the patient be accepted onto a hospice programme, the Hospice team together with the patient will develop a tailor-made plan care plan. Usually patients are visited by the hospice staff in their own homes. The care and support of the hospice team will help the patient and family as they navigate their way through the challenges of living with a life-limiting condition.
The main things hospice can help with are:
pain and symptom control
psycho-social support and advise
equipment (wheelchairs etc)
The challenges that we as a family must face with Vic’s terminal diagnosis is complex. It includes evolving new structures and dynamics as the person we love very, very slowly slips away.
Last night and again tonight, Vic said to me “Mommy, I know you think I will live forever but you must prepare yourself because I know how my body feels…”
As a family we have learnt to cope with setbacks, Vic’s health steadily deteriorating and periods of seeming remission. This “extended grief”, wears us down and leads to the horrible realization that we sometimes find ourselves wishing that the process would end…. I have often said “Sometimes I am scared Vic will never die…” I do not want my child to die. I merely want her suffering to END!
As a family we have moved into a phase where the stress of the situation can no longer be ignored. It is making all of us ill.
This week has been an emotional roller coaster! On Tuesday I cried in front of a strange doctor. Wednesday I felt that I was losing the plot. I was unable to function on a professional level. My mind was absolutely fogged over. Thursday an angel named Christa evaluated Vic and I went from absolute despair to exuberance when I heard that Hospice’s Doctor would evaluate Vic on Monday morning…
Today when Jared and I were waiting to see the doctor after his CT scan we had a long chat…
He said “Oumie I can see when you are stressed. You zone out… You have been very stressed this week….”
“Yeah” I said. “I have been a little stressed this week.”
“Since you starting writing your blog you no longer wear a mask Oumie…You handled the stress better before! You always smiled.”
OMG. What am I doing to the boys? I realized today that I have to be more careful. The mask has to go back on. I scare them when I show my stress. Imagine what it would do to them if they read my blog….. Thank God they don’t!
I left the best for last though – no immediate lymph biopsy will be done on Jared. The lymph nodes are definitely enlarged but there has been no adverse change in the past two and a half weeks. We will give his kidney some time to heal and the CT scan will be repeated again in two months time.
I am feeling so positive!
There is a God and I thank him for Jared’s outcome, Hospice intervention, Baby Isak and my wonderful, loving family. I pray that He will enfold Vic and the boys in His Mercy and Grace. I pray for my mask!
I just finished watching a program called “How to Die in Oregon“. I am in total awe of the terminally ill people who make the decision to die with dignity. People often say that it is a coward who commits suicide. I don’t agree. I think people must be so brave to do it!!
There is however a huge difference between suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Assisted suicide is the common term for actions by which an individual helps another person voluntarily bring about his or her own death. “Assistance” may mean providing one with the means (drugs or equipment) to end one’s own life, but may extend to other actions. It differs to euthanasia where another person ends the life. The current waves of global public debate have been ongoing for decades, centering on legal, religious, and moral conceptions of “suicide” and a personal “right to death“. Legally speaking, the practice may be legal, illegal, or undecided depending on the culture or jurisdiction
The TV documentary, “How to Die in Oregon” is the tender and poignant story of Cody Curtis, a 54 year old, dignified, lady, who is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Cody, early in her final journey decides that pain strips one from the ability to make rational decisions. She decides that she will not suffer the indignity of living with loss of control of her bodily functions. She desires a “tidy death”. Her journey takes her way past her “expiry date” and she muses “People are waiting for me to die. I do not understand why I am feeling so good”.
Her decline into intolerable pain and discomfort is sudden. “Compassion and Choices” sends in volunteers to counsel and assist with the final act of assisted suicide. Cody’s final journey is gentle, beautiful and “easy”.
Every time I say those terrible words “Vic is better” it is as if I place a curse on my poor child. Poor Vic did not have a good day today. Isn’t it amazing that 400mg of Morphine does not help for a headache! It actually takes something like Grandpa’s or a Migraine Kit to help….
Vic and I sat chatting tonight. She too had watched “How to Die in Oregon” and wanted to know how I would feel if she ever took a similar decision. She cried and said that she is so sad and lonely. She feels that the boys no longer trust her to “mother” them.
It is not the case. What the boys have however started doing is setting her free….
How would I feel? I would be devastated if Vic ever passed before I do. I would miss her every second of my remaining life. I would respect her wishes. I would honor her memory and heart wrenching decision.
Nobody can begin to comprehend the pain that Vic suffers. Nobody can comprehend that she drifts from one pain filled day to the next. If she lived an extra month or two months it would be another month or two months of pain. That is a lot of pain.
I know that this post will elicit a lot of condemnation and criticism. When you have walked just ONE mile in our moccasins you may speak….
Did God intend for man or woman to “live” connected to machines to keep them breathing? People accept the death of a six-year-old child by aerial bombardment or economic sanctions and defend the life of a six-week-old fetus. I personally live in a country where children still die from inadequate medical care and hunger.
After Vic’s Dad spent a week in ICU, ventilated and bleeding from his eyes, she signed the documents to allow the doctors to turn off the ventilator. Tienie was an organ donor. We were allowed to say our goodbyes and then the transplant team swept in. Sometime later the machines were switched off and Tienie was officially declared dead…..
Tienie lived life to the full. He believed sleep was a waste of time. He never sat still for a single minute. He loved life! He had a brilliant mind. He was articulate and well educated. He was a very proud man. If Tienie had lived he would have been condemned to “Locked-In Syndrome“. I remember standing next to his hospital bed thinking “What if that brilliant mind is trapped in a body that cannot communicate?”
Vic received a couple of letters from grateful recipients telling her what a difference Tienie’s organ’s had made to their lives.
On numerous occasions Vic has been on life support. We have been told to say our goodbyes. We said our goodbyes. Vic started breathing on her own…
Across the world people have prayed for Vicky’s life to be spared/saved. I have seen medical teams fight for her life refusing to let her slip into the arms of death. The bottom line is that doctors have played God in her life for many, many years. They decided when she was NOT allowed to die…
Doctors proclaim they do not want to play God…..They will fight day and night, for weeks on end, to save a very sick person’s life regardless of the individual’s wishes and quality of live. Doctors and Governments assume the right to decide when a sick person may die. God surely did not intend people to live a miserable life… Just yesterday Britain’s High Court rejected an attempt by a man who has locked-in syndrome to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.
Tony Nicklinson had a stroke in 2005 that left him unable to speak or move below his neck. He requires constant care and communicates mostly by blinking, although his mind has remained unaffected and his condition is not terminal. Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological disorder where patients are completely paralyzed, and only able to blink. Patients are conscious and don’t have any intellectual problems, but they are unable to speak or move……
“The suicide, the mystic, the woman who seeks an abortion, the cancer patient who smokes a joint (the cancer patient’s long-suffering lover who smokes a joint)—all are roundly condemned for their escape from “responsibility” but truly feared for their escape from jurisdiction. It is a fear with a long and traceable history. The Roman emperor Tarquin crucified the bodies of citizens who committed suicide in order to escape his tyranny. When Margaret Sanger began her campaign for birth control, she was accused of permitting women to escape their God-ordained sorrow in bearing children.” http://harpers.org/archive/2005/02/0080411
We live in a world filled with hypocrites and people with double standards. I have said it before – people take the moral high ground and assume the role of God. Did God intend for man or woman to “live” connected to machines to keep them breathing? People accept the death of a six-year-old child by aerial bombardment or economic sanctions and defend the life of a six-week-old fetus. I personally live in a country where children still die from inadequate medical care and hunger.
It is not physician-assisted suicide that poses the greatest threat to the poor and the disabled but physician-assisted eternal life: Rich people will pay a lot of money for illegally harvested organs… The poor, from a different continent, will sell their organs to buy seed for their farms….
The World Trade Centre – did the jumpers commit suicide or were they murdered? According to most religions the jumpers will go to hell because they took a life – albeit their own…. How stupid!!!!
It is my personal opinion that Tony Nicklinson has been sentenced to a Life of Disability rather than being allowed “Death with Dignity.” He cannot wipe his own nose, wipe a tear from his eyes, scratch his ear….. He cannot control his bodily functions. He cannot even take a lethal dose of medication.
I pray that God will have mercy on me and allow me the time, mobility and clarity of mind to end my life rather than live the indignity and miserable life that Tony Nicklinson has been condemned too.