In John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, the protagonist, John Perry, talks about how when you reach a certain age it isn’t “one thing after another,” but instead, “everything all at once.”
That’s what my father is dealing with, and us along with him.
Both my father and mother – and myself for that matter – have told others that if medical science can return us to a reasonable functional level, go ahead and do what is necessary. However, if life is going to be severely limited, such as being bedridden and connected to a ventilator, please don’t take such extraordinary measures.
My father hasn’t been able to eat much over the past week or so. Today the discussion among the staff was the need for a feeding tube. There’s a temporary nasogastric tube that’s effective but uncomfortable. There’s a surgical gastrostomy tube that’s permanent. Where’s the line between supportive and extraordinary? What should we do?
His doctor arrived at about 9:00 pm and discussed the situation with us.
Were we going to face a heart rending decision?
She brought us up to date on everything. When it got to the issue of nutrition, my father protested that even the sight of food bothered him. His taste was altered by the treatments and everything was sickly sweet.
“What about toast?” the doctor asked. “Say toasted rye bread?”
“I think I could do that,” my father replied. “I also want something to drink that’s not sweet – like lemonade.”
The doctor pointed out that lemons have too much potassium. We threw out various suggestions and lo and behold someone mentioned a particular grapefruit based soda that none of us had thought about in ages.
My brother ran out and got the soda. My father decided that toast and the soda was good.
The Lord gave us at least one more day, but I know there was a reason. Perhaps it was to bring us closer. Perhaps it was to teach us not to let the high tech overshadow the simple solutions. It could even be because He rewards families that love one another.
For whatever reason, it was a day that began with concern and ended more sweetly.
Thank you God.