Things worse than death

by barbznz

After Suzanne left we settled into a new routine. I lost the home help of course and no nappies were delivered to the house any more. And there was so much less to do. And at the drop of a hat, we could be off on new adventures. It is surprisingly easy. 

Not that I didn’t miss Suzanne. I felt there was a huge hole in my life.  We visited regularly and she was fine. I got to know the other children in the residence. They really weren’t now to me, as I had met them all at CDU. One little boy broke my heart.

To be honest, for the life of me, I can’t remember his name, and if I went through Suzanne’s stuff, I would find it. But really I don’t know that his name is that important. What is important is his story.  I will call him Reuben.  

Reuben was an only son. He had a loving Mum and Dad and  sisters. When he was four, he was riding his new bike at his Nana’s house. Look at me Nana he yelled as he went down the driveway, straight into an on coming car. 

His injuries were horrendous. He was rushed to hospital and her parents were called. He was unlikely to survive the doctors said. And there is severe brain damage. But Reuben kept breathing. His parents stayed at the hospital with him, and he kept breathing. 

Eventually, his parents went home, Several times they were called in and told Reuben was dying, but he never did, he kept coming back. 

After about five months in hospital, he came to live with Suzanne. He was completely immobile  There were no visible scars. But the real difference between him and the other children at the residence, was  stark. There was no life in his eyes. He was really just a body that kept breathing.

He had severe kidney failure so had to be given fluids all the time to ensure that his kidneys kept working. He didn’t make sound. One day he stopped breathing. IHC staff gave him CPR and called an ambulance. When they got to the hospital, the nurses asked what happened. 

the staff told them what they had done, and the nurses said, why did you bother. And they said, because we don’t have a choice we can’t play God, we just have to do our job. And the nurses did too. He survived and went back. 

One day he died, very quietly at the residence. Suzanne and the other children were very subdued, staff said but they looked very happy. It was Father’s Day, 18 months after the accident.

At the funeral, some one said to Reuben’s mother, now you can start grieving. And she smiled  said, no, now I can stop.  After they thought about it, they agreed. 

It is a tough question. Sometimes I think that medically we can be too clever and save people who in hindsight would probably be kinder if they didn’t make. But the problem is, how can you tell. There are stories of miracle recoveries all the time, that from the outset seem bleak indeed. So of course doctors have to do all that they can. 

Our road fatality statistics just talk about the people who die, and it is a very sad things for all those families friends. But there is never any mention of the survivors like Reuben. And sure I know that many people out there will say, well his parents probably learnt a lot from their experience. Perhaps  they did. But what a way to learn. 

I remember years ago, watching Oprah. They were talking about turning off life support. There was a big case in America at the time when a family wanted to turn a woman’s life support off and her husband didn’t. Oprah talked to a woman in that situation.

As her husband was in court fighting to have her machine turned off, she came out of her vegetative state much to the surprise of medical staff.Oprah said, don’t you hate your husband, he tried to kill you. And she said, no, I love him more because he believed what he was told, that there was no chance of recovery and he did it out of love. And I may be sitting here looking wonderful, but it has taken five years and  a huge toll on me and family  to get me here. And there is still so much to do. In fact, in some ways,  it might have been better if he had succeeded, 

The reality is, sometimes there are things worse than death. And personally if I am every in a situation where I can be turned off, I would be very happy if someone would love and respect me enough to do it. 

© Barbara Hart 2014

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