Only Joan Rivers could leave us laughing and wanting more. I saw her book interview with Tavis Smiley, who asked her about her wishes. She looked serious and thoughtful. A decision for her care should be based on her ability to go on stage for a 90 minute show.
I am older than Joan. A recent trip to the Emergency turned out, as the doctor informed us, not to be as simple as you think. Even then, my thoughts were more simplistic than the worried looks surrounding me. Near midnight, we were suddenly asked the “R” word. Not for years when we did a medical authorization form, had I given much thought to ‘resuscittation.’
I am a problem solver for others. You just ask all the apropriate questions and come to a decision. But there was no time for consultation. The doctor needed to know about that night. I had walked in. I had spent hours waiting for test results and a bed. I had been given no medication. Medication is always at the top of my list of culprits. So what could happen before dawn to set off alarm bells?
Every cell was screaming, I am not ready to die. The message is: Do not put me in any danger. Turn down the lights and I will sleep soundly. I will not give you any concerns. Not tonight.
This is about Joan Rivers’ surgery and death, and how it made me think. Most women have some type of hospital experience in their lives. We balk when presented with releases to sign. These absolve the health professionals in case anything goes wrong. You ask for your glasses to read or amend the form. You may be told you do not need to read it. Don’t want to sign it? Then, you might as well leave.
Things do go wrong. Dental implants are done in the dentist’s office. You may be ushered out a back door into an alley. People in the waiting room will not see you staggering. React to medicines? Offer a compounding pharmacy to make drugs needed for surgery? Not every doctor will consider this. You are left with risking complications. The entire team needs to know what your doctor knows. Vigilance at every point is impossible for the patient or the advocate. Computers over-ride the doctor’s orders to meet cost-cutting guidelines. If not caught, it could be life-threatening to a patient.
And how much is too much? In the last 8 years, I count as many procedures where I was under amnesia of one kind or another. And I am healthy, I control most of what has been diagnosed without medication. Why? Because medications have stuff in them that disagree with me in ever more dramatic ways. Have I really known the records of these facilities? Could I have made more intelligent decisions. Are we programmed to accept that we are in a safe place with the most competent staff? Do we know what emergency plan is available? And most of all, do we have an advocate present who knows our wishes?
I hope Joan was serious about her wishes and that it was not a joke. And I thank my daughter-advocates who are also problem solvers. Our lives may depend on their vigilance.