“Pulling the Plug on Grandma”

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Regular Pink Flamingo readers may know about the medical crises my family has been dealing with, on and off again, for the past four years, which reached critical mass during the middle of October.

My 79 year old mother has suffered from cardiac problems for many years.  We have discovered her heart condition, which was mis-diagonsed as tachycardia, is classic a-fib.  During one of her many “attacks” years ago, this one occurring in Palm Beach, the attending physician at the ER wanted to do a pace-maker, immediately.  Her cardiologist in Atlanta thought she did not need one.

Fast forward a good 20 years, when she went into heart-failure and coded, twice in one evening.  During that traumatic week while we were in Las Cruces dealing with life and death issues, I found an article making the claim that women who needed pace-makers were far less likely to receive them to to a male bias.  In order to get my father to listen to me, I had to have one of the worst temper tantrums of my life.  The following day he confronted my mother’s new cardiologist, asking him a about a pace-maker.  He was told she did not need one.  I couldn’t believe it when I heard my father confront the physician and ask if my mother were a man, would she have had one, already.

Five minutes later her cardiologist poked his head in the door and said he had scheduled a pace-maker insertion for late afternoon the following day.

The pace-maker has kept her alive.

We’re also dealing with 12% bone density.

One of the dirty little secrets of the “thin” culture is the fact that women who have a higher body mass index DO NOT get osteoporosis.  My mother has a lifetime eating habit that borders on anorexia.  Until the last 15 years or so, she usually weighed anywhere from 90 – 110 pounds.  We are currently dealing with a broken vertebra from a fall that would not have harmed someone with a normal body mass, and a broken elbow.  Both occurred since July.

After her elbow surgery, she developed pneumonia.  She has not been eating for several months.  After being hospitalized for 10 days, during which time we nearly lost her, we discovered she was severely anemic.  Vampirella was given 3 units of whole blood.  She started eating that night, and continues to improve.

If we were living in the UK, they would have refused to treat her and she would be dead.  If we were living under the era of ObamaCare she would have been given a couple of pain pills and sent home to die.

She is now receiving some help from home health care (that is another story) which is connected to the local hospice.  I detest hospice and consider them nothing but a legalized way to murder someone.  Evidently, according to a piece Steve Croft did on 60 Minutes, confirmed my theory, that hospice is nothing but legalized murder.

“...Dr. Ira Byock, past president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, had a solution – subjectively choosing what patient deserves what end-of-life medical treatment.

“I think you can not make these decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Byock said. “It would be much easier for us to say we simply do not put defibrillators in people in this condition – meaning your age, your functional status, the ability to make full benefit of the defibrillator. Now again, that’s going to outrage a lot of people.”

Kroft proposed that this stance was a version of “pulling grandma off the machine,” one of the key ethical and moral dilemmas dismissed by the current detractors of health care reform as fear-mongering. But what he proposed has a real chilling effect for those on the verge of needing such health care.

“You know, I have to say, I think that’s offensive,” Byock replied. “I just – I spend my life in service of affirming life. I really do. To say we’re going to pull grandma off this machine by not offering her a liver transplant or her fourth cardiac bypass surgery or something is really just scurrilous and it’s certainly scurrilous when we have 46 million Americans who are uninsured.”…”

You will want to read Rick Moran’s commentary.  He isn’t the only one who finds this chilling.  I’ve come too close to comfort to the “pull the plug on grandma” lately.  When we took my mother to the ER 3 weeks ago on Wednesday, she was in bad shape – very bad shape.  We were not sure if she was going to make it.  I kept thinking about ObamaCare and what her fate would be if it were allowed to pass.

It cannot be allowed to pass.

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One thought on ““Pulling the Plug on Grandma”

  1. Hi Ms. Reidhead,

    I am sorry to hear about your mother. I have a-fib myself and I understand the many complications that come along with it. I came across a website the other day about a clinical trial that I found interesting and am considering for myself. I don’t know if this is something of interest to you and your mother, but I thought I would pass it along anyway- http://www.researchforafib.org. Best wishes for you and your family!

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