This is the first in a series of posts about how you can help your loved ones handle the "business side" of death, should the unfortunate occur.
Five years ago, Barry's mom was diagnosed with cancer. For 16 months, she underwent aggressive treatment in an effort to save her life. Unfortunately, she went home to be with Jesus in November 2006. During the last 16 months of her life and following her death, Barry and I had to make some difficult decisions. We were blessed to be able to ask her opinion on many of those decisions before she died.
All of this forced us to have some conversations about death and our desires in death at a very young age. I had no idea I would be faced with these decisions again only a few short years later. Looking back, I am thankful that we were forced to have these conversations. When Barry passed away, I did not have to agonize over what to do with his body or how to handle arrangements - he had told me what he wanted only a few years before. Believe it or not, it helped tremendously.
My hope for you if you are reading this, is that you will have these same conversations with your family or spouse now. I know it is not an enjoyable subject to discuss. But I do believe that by having these conversations, you are loving, protecting and providing for your loved ones - even in death.
So, here goes....
DNR - Do Not Resuscitate
A DNR is a legal document that states that resuscitation should not be attempted if a person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. Basically, it is helpful for your loved ones to know if you want CPR preformed to resuscitate you should your heart stop or you stop breathing.
For us, all signs pointed to the fact that my husband had suffered brain damage, but confirming tests could not be performed because he was not stable enough to move for the testing. I had to decide if I wanted CPR performed during testing. I decided to give permission for a DNR order only after family had seen him one last time and had had the opportunity to say goodbye in case he died during testing.
In making decisions about a DNR, you need to understand that there are no black and white situations. So many different things can happen. Instead, what you need to focus on is helping your loved ones understand what extremes you want doctors to go to in a life-threatening situation.
In the event of your death, so you want your organs donated to another person in need? This is a very personal decision. That is why it is important to discuss it now. You need to take into account your religious beliefs. You also need to take into account how your family feels about donation.
The donation process takes approximately 24 hours. It is not like what you see on tv. Organ donation requires surgery. It often requires certain medical procedures before the operation to prepare the body for the donation. (For example, my husband need several hours of dialysis before they could begin harvesting his organs.) It is not quick. But, it will not interfere with funeral arrangements. And, you can still have an open casket viewing and funeral if you choose to donate.
There are no medical expenses incurred by the family for donation procedures. Also, if you decide to donate, some funeral homes will reduce the cost of services rendered for the deceased.
While organ donation is fairly well understood by the public, tissue donation is not. Most people do not even know that tissue donation is an option. In tissue donation, skin, bone, veins and eyes are removed from the deceased and used for medical purposes in a number of other people. When someone agrees to tissue donation, more than 10 people can be helped. Often, the tissue used can help save someone's life, or greatly increase the quality of life in another individual. Skin can be used for burn victims. Eyes can give the gift of sight. Veins can be used for those undergoing heart surgery. There is a great need specifically for eyes and for veins from young men.
Tissue donation is done after organ donation. If there is not organ donation, often times, no medical procedures are needed beforehand. Again, tissue donation will not interfere with funeral arrangements and you can still have an open casket viewing and funeral (the only issue is that if doing bone donation, bone is taken from the upper arm and it is recommended that the deceased be dressed in a long-sleeved shirt.)
Just like with organ donation, there are no medical expenses incurred by the family for donation procedures and some funeral homes will reduce the costs of services rendered for the deceased.
For more information on organ and tissue donation, check out this website: http://www.donatelife.net/