Discussing End-Of-Life Issues- Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project Could Help

  • In 2003, my grandmother finally died after suffering with congestive heart failure for quite some time.  The experience has taught me several things about life and about medical care.

    Did you know that if someone calls 911, it doesn’t matter that a person has a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, the paramedics must do everything they can to try to revive the person?

    That’s what happened when a hired caregiver attending my grandmother panicked and called 911.  She also called my aunt who was not far away and arrived as the EMTs arrived.  My aunt insisted that there was a DNR order, but legally the EMTs could not stop.

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    That was 2003.  But more recently, several states, such as Pennsylvania, have established an Out-of-Hospital Nonresuscitation Act.  This allows a person, and an authorized representative of that person, to make it clearly known that even EMTs must not try to resuscitate them.

    My grandmother was in and out of the hospital too many times during her last year of life.  She should have died but my aunts and uncles weren’t ready.  Selfishly, I am glad that the EMTs did get her to the hospital one of those times because it gave me an opportunity to travel back home and see her two more times that year.  She was my closest grandparent.

    Eventually, the decision was made with her doctor to send her home and to remove her feeding tube.  Thankfully, she was no longer conscious during this time period.  It took about a week before she passed.

    So after this experience, my mother had some discussions with me and my brother to make sure that we understood what she would want, as far as medical interventions, or not.  She did exactly what the organizers of Engage With Grace want more people to do.  Talk about End-of-Life issues and desires.

    We all ‘know’ that multiple sclerosis isn’t fatal, except in a very rare form of the disease.  However, we do know that the complications of MS might contribute to our death.  Loss of mobility can increase risk of pneumonia and bed sores.  Repeated use of corticosteroids also increases the risk of bed sores which can lead to sepsis and death.

    So, the Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project was designed to help us, every person chronically ill or healthy, to start a conversation.  The One Slide poses just five questions, designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences.

    To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org.


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: December 05, 2008