Friday, February 4, 2011

End of life matters: "Margaret Sumac" (fake name)

Just called the hospital to inquire about "Meg's" condition. She's a member of our support group and attends Helen's group at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket in the coffeeshop. Helen had spent lots of time with Meg who has numerous problems and found the best comfort of all with Helen and our group.

Meg's friend Marge called to inform me about Meg.

Meg, a widow, was extremely attached to her elderly mom - a centenarian - who had been in a home for several years. Her mother just passed a couple weeks ago and upon hearing the news, Meg suffered a brain aneurysm. She was operated on and remains in critical condition in the hospital.

Stable but critical. Her friend Marge calls and keeps me informed about her progress or lack thereof. There's only a slim chance she will pull out of it. Meg is close to 70.She impressed me as a lovely softspoken woman who nonetheless has succeeded in doing some very difficult things in her life that take guts. Extremely sensitive to other's pain, she was visibly shaking and near tears when I told her about my end-stage renal disease. At the time I had no donor as I do now.

I was responding just now to a Facebook post about my daughter, who has named her traveling kidney Odysseus, when I suddenly thought of Meg.

Assuming she will not make it, can we save her organs and the transplantable parts of her body?

I called the hospital and spoke to Nurse Meghan. B/c I'm not a family member - and they are very strict - she couldn't address Meg's actual condition, but I asked her a couple of generic questions she was able to answer.

For example, how would a person die who has had brain surgery and is in critical condition?

Any number of things could start to fail, she said.

At what point is donation considered? I asked.

When she's declared 'brain dead' or declared dead.

At that time, people from the Gift of Life come talk to the family or, in Meg's case, her power of attorney, for the decision.

I was glad I found this out. Seems like I'm becoming an advocate of organ donation.

Meg is on an ICU unit with 22 beds. The cardiac ICU has 40 beds.

Only today another woman from our group called me and asked about making out her living will. She's around Meg's age, 70 in April.

Good for you, Greta, I said, for making out your will now, while you're healthy. That's the best time to do it.

Death is in the air. Why? Any ideas?


  1. I am very sorry about Meg. It sounds like she has endured so much during her life. I hope for peace and the best
    possible outcome for her.

    I had a friend/staff member who had a brain aneurysm and before that a kidney transplant (for a different reason than yours). She pulled through both and did well for some years but then got cancer and did not make it. She died in her late 50's and was adoptive mother to two girls my agency had placed. I still miss her.

  2. thanks, iris. i'm finishing up rewriting my novel which also deals with death. the main character is dying of cancer. i'm on a roll. it's no longer painful to work on it, but only to stop working.

  3. That's great but just be sure to take enough breaks so you take care of yourself physically. It's wonderful to create and to feel it flowing but you can't work all the time.