Saturday, February 14, 2009

Do not resuscitate

Checking into the hospital yesterday (I am actually writing this from there), it struck me with renewed force the magnitude of the decision my wife and I made a few months ago not to pursue any further drastic treatments in dealing with my leukemia. After four years of chemotherapy and radiation, a stem cell transplant two years ago and going through the long struggle with graft-versus-host disease and other complications, only to be told this spring that the cancer had returned, we decided, upon the advice of our oncologist, that there was little else, medically speaking, that we could do to try to treat this in such a way that a cure was possible.  The sickness I had previously suffered would be multiplied if we tried similar treatment again and when it was all said and done, the changes of success were low.  The treatment, quite simply, would likely be more fatal than the disease.

Now why am I rambling on about this in a blog on the persecuted church after I had decided some time ago to restrict my health reports to my personal blog?  Well, follow me here...

Just before I was to be checked into the hospital, my oncologist sat down beside me to discuss what should happen if, by some unforeseen necessity, the services of the ICU would be required. Did I truly understand that our decision meant that, unless we said otherwise, the hospital staff would be under instructions not to use paddles to restart my heart if it stopped, or to put me on a ventilator if I stopped breathing, or to put me on artificial life-support? "Was this still my intent?" he wondered.

Swallowing hard, I hesitated. Not because I feared that such services would be required during this hospital stay, but because I had to reaffirm my decision yet again. The thought crossed my mind, "But I love my life!" and I was tempted to waver. But deep down I knew that any life that required such drastic steps (at least in my case) to continue would likely be not worth living. And in those moments, I was reminded of Paul's words that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. Somehow, he found comfort in that thought as he was about to pay the consequences of his decision to follow Christ years earlier. "Yes, I understand," I told the doctor. He nodded and went to fill out the order for my admission.

A few minutes later, as I was being wheeled to my room by a nurse, I noted on the doctor's order (which I happened to be holding, as the nurse's hands were full pushing me), the letters "DNR" written near the bottom of the page. I knew what that meant - “Do Not Resuscitate". I jokingly referred to it to the attending nurse as we went up the elevator to the 15th floor. She froze and exclaimed "Why??" I briefly explained the situation and why we had made the decision. She came around to the side of my wheelchair and embraced me. "It's not too late to change your mind," she said. "It's never too late to change your mind."

I understood her intent. "This was not an easy decision," I simply said. It didn't satisfy her, I know.

I still think it is the right one, just as I am sure that many persecuted Christians would affirm, if asked today, whether it was the right decision to follow Jesus, even if meant losing one's life, livelihood, family, or freedom. The lure is to change one’s mind. "You can still change your mind... You don't have to stick by your decisions... You don't have to stay committed... Just back down, embrace your life and live another day."

As I asked in my blog earlier today, I wonder which is worse, suffering and death or the fear of them?


Michelle said...

Glenn I am praying for you and your family! You are in God's hands no matter what happens. That is the very best place to be! :)

Anonymous said...

Will you save a seat for me? We'll sing praises together.

Lord Jesus, be with my brother as he travels. Be with his family and friends. Give him opportunities to share the hope that burns bright within him. The people who respond to the Gospel are the only thing he will take with him on his journey.

I will see you, Brother.

Matthew said...

Intense stuff. As a medical student, it has been very helpful for me to read about your decision-making and understand a little better the issues that swirl around all the things that otherwise I would just memorize for a test. Things like DNRs are not easy to process, but it sounds like you've really though it through well and found a good way to apply it to our faith. Thanks for sharing so much and God bless as you live a life worthy of the calling. I'll be praying.

prazim said...

I am praying for you as you travel this portion of your journey. Thank you for the beautiful work you do here, for all of us for whom Jesus is our everything.