Preparing For A Hospitalization
For those people who are facing a hospitalization or major surgery and have time to prepare, this essay is for you.
Dealing with the prospect of hospitalization and major surgery is a jolt, no matter how you look at it. It is true that the advance of medical technology makes surgery today the difference between life and death that perhaps 40 years ago did not exist, where death would have been certain. Cardiac Surgery for example deals with procedures that didn’t previously exist.
Forty years ago, angioplasties, bypass surgery, heart transplant, or valve replacements didn’t exist. Today, bypass surgery is very common and has a very high success rate (approximately 96% success, barring complications). Never-the-less, having your sternum sliced open by a saw, foreign hands in your chest, moving around, your heart stopped, plugged to a machine to keep you alive while the doctors work, is no stroll in the park. It is a major violation of your body in a way that is so intense it may take a long time to recuperate from the emotional jolt of the experience, even if the positive impact is to add years to your life.
Also, the advances in medical technology today make it possible to extend your breathing, your heart pumping capacity for years. Again, the question you must ask is: Do you want to be laying in a hospital bed, in a coma, kept alive by machines possibly for years, if that scenario ever arises?
Choosing a Medical Proxy prior to any hospitalization, is now an absolute necessity. What this does is allow a person who you trust and who you have confidence in, to carry out your wishes should you become incapable of making your own decisions. The question you must ask yourself is: Do you want someone you trust making those decisions for you, or a complete stranger? Someone who you do not know will not be interested in your personal wishes. They will think in terms of the letter of the law and judicial restraints regardless of what your prior wishes may have been. If you do not want to be hooked up to a ventilator for years, and/or fed intravenously, it is in your best interest to pick a person who you know well, discuss your wishes, intentions, and desires for any DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. Doctors, nurses and hospitals will honor a DNR order privately, and will not use unusual procedures to keep someone alive, where the quality of life is nothing more than being brain dead and comatose without the reasonable likelihood of any recovery.
Along with a Medical Proxy form, it’s also a good idea to have a Living Will. This will cover most cases that will involve any life extending procedures, where it’s clear that the quality of your life will not be improved, just the length. Once you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions, it is too late. Regardless of what you may have indicated verbally, your wishes will not be honored unless you have indicated in writing what you want.
Although these possibilities are not pleasant to think about, they are necessary if there is a major illness involved, surgery planned, and the possibility that you may become incapable of making your own decisions at any time. It is also a good idea to have a copy of both the living will and the declaration of proxy, on file in your medical chart, with your personal physician, and updated annually.