Settled in to watch tv tonight, excited cuz the fall season has started and I was finally gonna get to find out who lived through that horrible plane crash on Grey's Anatomy. Start watching the show, and it ends up, Mark Sloan (one of the characters) had "survived" the plane crash, but had been on life support, and his wishes were that if something happened where he was on life support and didn't improve within 30 days, he wanted to be taken off and allowed to die, and this was supposed to be day 30.
So at this point, all my family and close friends are gonna know exactly what I'm thinking here, and why I suddenly found myself sobbing at the tv. Two years ago, my mom was on life support, kept alive with a ton of meds and a ventilator, for several days until we finally realized there was no possible hope, and we had to make the decision to take her off. Watching it happen on tv made it all flash back in my mind, clear as anything.
My dad didn't want to make the decision. He asked each individual member of the family what they thought he should do. If any one of us had said to wait, I'm sure he would have. But it was torture watching her lay there, with 13 different meds being pumped into her as hard as they could, knowing that she'd never wake up, and she'd never be herself again if somehow she could. And if she COULD wake up, she would sit up and scream at all of us for keeping her on that horrible vent and having her poked and prodded and essentially tortured in a selfish attempt to keep her alive a little longer. The doctor had laid it on the line for us, and let us know that she was already "only 10% alive, the rest is machines." We were just prolonging the inevitable. So when Dad asked each one of us what we thought he should do, her four children, and her sisters, we all had the same answer. "Turn it off. She would HATE this. There's no hope. Turn it off."
They led us all into a little room to wait while they took out the ventilator, turned off the meds, and put the sides down on the bed so that we could all crowd around and be close to her. They carefully explained what they would be doing and what we should expect. They told us she would continue breathing for some time after the machine was turned off, and there was no way to know how long. Could be minutes, could be hours. They turned off the monitors so we wouldn't have to hear the slowing "beeps" as her heart stopped. And then they led us all back in.
All the tubes and wires were cleared away, so we could actually SEE her. She was still breathing in exactly the same pattern as the ventilator had done, they never show that on tv or in movies when they take someone off life support. The tube was not there, the machine was not there, but she breathed in the same pattern with the same sound that she had on the vent. The thought went through my mind that maybe she'd just keep right on breathing, and wouldn't die after all. But as we talked to her, held her hands, told her we loved her, and said our goodbyes, the breaths got further and further apart, and more and more shallow. And then they stopped.
It is a day I try not to think about. It is a day I had to replay in my mind a million times after it happened to work through and to process, and now I try to forget. I feel guilty writing about it because I know my family will read this and it will make them all remember too, and none of us want to think about it.
If I can ever stop crying and get to sleep tonight, I'm gonna wake up tomorrow and try to forget it again. And the next time I'm trying to chill out and watch tv, if the scene calls for someone to be taken off life support, I'm gonna change the channel. It's no longer "entertainment" to watch a scene like that when you've been through it for real. It was gut-wrenching, mind boggling, horrific, and it changed every one of us who were there. If I can help it, I don't ever want to remember it again.
Those of you reading this who still have your parents, call them today and tell them you love them, because I said so.