A blow in the gut. That’s how my pal Bruce described the profound shock he felt when his wife, Linda, woke up and couldn’t move her legs and arms on the right side of her body. It took them a few moments to figure out that she must have suffered a stroke in the middle of the night. How severe or long lasting was not the issue. A stroke is a stroke. Getting immediate emergency assistance was critical.
Bruce called 911. An emergency crew arrived within minutes and in no time he and his wife were in the Emergency Room at a local hospital.
Lesson I. Getting immediate emergency assistance after a stroke is critical. Don’t wait until your doctor’s offer opens. Act now. Linda and Bruce learned that their quick action made a difference in the amount of time it’ll take his wife to recover.
En route to the hospital the EMT asked Bruce and his wife what medications she takes. Luckily she only takes 2. What if she took 5 or 6 prescriptions? Would she or Bruce have remembered? What if she had been unconscious and he not there?
Lesson II. Make a list of your prescriptions and carry it with you. Smart phone owners can keep a record of their prescriptions on their PDAs. Keep that list handy.
Once in the emergency room, a hospital official asked Linda whether she has a living will or an advance medical directive. Yes, she replied, but they failed to bring it with them. Fortunately, Linda wasn’t alone at the time of the incident, and she was conscious. Her condition, while serious, was not such that an advance directive or health care proxy was immediately necessary. But what if she had been unconscious, or worse, near death? Without appropriate documentation a hospital staff is bound to save lives even if the victim is destined to remain in a vegetative state indefinitely.
Lesson III. Have your living will and/or advance medical directive in a marked envelope near your front door. Keep a copy in your car as well. If you haven’t either a living will or an advance health care directive, have them prepared as soon as possible. And know the difference between the two.
Most of all, share all of this with your closest family members. This may not qualify as a tough conversation, but most certainly a necessary one.
A coming blog will attempt to make sense of what all these terms such as health care proxy, living will, advance directive, durable power of attorney for health care, DNR mean.