Do Not Resuscitate – possibly some of the harshest words you’ll ever hear and one of the most unnerving legal documents you’ll ever sign.
Do Not Resuscitate also known as a “DNR” is simply an advance directive that tells the medical staff not to perform CPR on you if your heart stops beating or if you stop breathing. These requests are used daily in the medical field, but I promise you, they are anything but simple to sign off on when it is your loved one that’s dying.
This was definitely the case when it was my daddy who was slowly dying in the hospital and I had to encourage my mom into finally signing his DNR as his lungs were filling up with fluid and he was technically drowning from heart failure after battling diabetes for years.
Due to the fact that I had worked in hospice for several years and was working for a hospice company when my dad got so sick, I knew the importance of a DNR to state what treatments you would or would not permit. Or if you got too sick to make those decisions you could sign over your medical decisions to a Medical Power of Attorney who would hopefully follow your end of life wishes.
Hospice was never an easy job, but for me it was rewarding in many ways. I loved all my volunteers and I felt like we made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
Though I knew the importance of being present when a baby comes into this world, I also knew how important it was to be present when a soul left this world. As a Volunteer Coordinator not only did I visit with the patients and families weekly, I also sat with them during their final moments here on earth. In fact, I counted it a privilege to walk them almost home.
However, it was hard on me when my father became more and more debilitated due to diabetes. First, he lost one leg below the knee. We spent nearly the whole month of December in the hospital, which included my daughter’s birthday, my birthday and worst of all, Christmas. I questioned God a lot during that time. I wondered where He had gone. Why wasn’t He answering our prayers? But then He showed me through a little musical Christmas tree that played my daddy’s favorite songs and I realized God had never left us. He had been walking with us the whole time.
The next year we went back and forth to the hospital then once again ended up in ICU right before Christmas again. This time doctors would take my daddy’s other leg above the knee. Each time I watched him battle back and finally get to go home again after weeks of hospital stays.
Then one day, he had an episode after his dialysis treatment. We had painfully watched for several years as diabetes had slowly destroyed his health. But now we were in the final stages of congestive heart failure and we could do nothing for him but pray for relief and release.
However, this would be our final weekend in the hospital because doctors said there was nothing left that they could do, no painful chest cavity taps to drain fluid off his lungs, but now I had to convince my mom to finally sign his DNR. I didn’t want this final admission of letting go but I knew it was needed and it was something we had talked about in length as the disease progressed.
This weekend I read another woman’s story about her child’s battle with AIDS and her having to finally sign her daughter’s DNR. She too had hated hearing those dreadful words and wrote a poem entitled “Do Not Resuscitate” in her memoir Hearing AIDS: How a Deaf Child with AIDS Taught Me to Hear God’s Voice.
As I read her poem, tears burst from my eyes and every memory came flooding back of my daddy’s last days on this earth. I could not finish her book that day until I wrote my own version of Do Not Resuscitate. I am thankful that there is hope beyond the DNR and beyond death itself. I am also thankful that my earthly father and my Heavenly Father have taught me biblical truths.