Monday, September 24, 2012

My Mom, Her Passing and Advanced Directives

Anna Fairbanks 1939-2012

by Cynthia Caron

My mom has passed away. Her death will leave a void that nothing will ever fill. Nobody can ever replace a mother…certainly not one as unique and beautiful as mine. With that said, I would like to take a moment and write about something very important that occurred from the moment I received the phone call from the ambulance attendants to my home in New Hampshire, of my mom's sudden massive stroke in Ohio. My flight landed only 9 hours later and I was in the ICU unit and facing the reality that my mom may never be the same and was in grave health. The last thing I wanted was to worry about the "legal aspects" of her medical care and treatment. How does this affect you? It does. It affects every living and breathing person no matter the age.

My point is, to please save your family and friends from having to "guess" your wishes should you be unable. Have an Advanced Directive/Living Will. It outlines who you wish to have make your medical decisions for you in case you are unable. It outlines, legally, what you would like done should you ever become incapacitated or without the ability to say what you would like done. My mom had a living will as I gave her one about 6 years ago, however, she did not complete it. Her prognosis was very poor in that her stroke was massive and without oxygen and blood to the left hemisphere of her brain. Initially, upon arrival to ICU, they felt she would probably be placed in rehab for 2-3 years to regain SOME of her capabilities lost. However, as the third day in ICU approached her brain swelled terribly and pushed the left side of brain into the right side. She suffered permanent brain damage that made rehabilitation no longer an option. She would have been permanently paralyzed, without the ability to swallow, talk, eat, drink or move on her own. She would have needed a feeding tube and a nursing home for the rest of her life until either her heart or pneumonia may have taken her.

While my mom's wishes were well known among all 3 of her children, myself included of course, and many of her friends… including numerous emails to me of others who "came back to the senior center with strokes" and her personal desires should she ever have legally could not hold up to any of her three adult children to make decisions by the courts. It was up to the doctors. Doctors take an oath to keep a person "alive." We were very lucky she had a wonderful neurologist who was able to bring her out of a coma for a limited time to get her "nods" as to what she wanted when the brain began to swell.

I will never ever forget as long as I live the intense look on my mom's face as she listened closely and nodded no to brain surgery, no to a feeding tube and no to a life bedridden in a nursing home. Had her wishes been in writing, and some may disagree, it would have saved the pain of my mom facing the grim reality of her prognosis and from having to see me, her daughter, pressing my face into my hands to keep from sobbing and crying out loud. I will never forget the look on her face as she had to make decisions to leave us all.

My mom just turned 73 only a month before. A fit woman who walked 3 miles a day, or more, and spent hours in her garden, drawing and painting floral landscapes, choir and attending her local senior center for daily activities.

PLEASE make those decisions ahead of time. That is what a living will/advanced directive is. It outlines example situations so that you can decide if you want to be "kept alive" while in a state of poor prognosis or if your quality of life will not be sufficient to your wishes. Many times you are asked if you have a Living Will when you attend your doctor appointments. Your doctor's office should always have a copy, along with whomever you designate as your Power of Attorney (POA). (The person who signs on your behalf when you are unable.) Please take the time to click on your state, print a copy….complete it and provide to your doctor, POA and lawyer if you have one. It's free. Be sure to have it notarized, as well. Do not let your fate be decided outside of those who love and know you. We were certainly grateful that my mom was able to give her wishes to the doctor before falling back into her coma. She passed away 9 days later on September 16, 2012. Forever loved and forever will be missed, by many.

Link to Advanced Directives, by State:
Link to Obituary of Anna M. Fairbanks:


Cynthia Caron
LostNMissing, Inc.

NamUs-Victim Advocate (NH)

Phone: 603.965.4621
Cell: 603.548.6548

1 comment:

  1. Cynthia! My thoughts are with you at this very difficult time... I truly know how difficult this I was a direct care clinical speech-language pathologist "in the trenches" for over 20 years... dealing with patients and families who were experiencing all of these losses.... their loved ones independent living skills lost, G-tube, dysphagia (swallowing) disorders, speech-language and cognitive deficits, and lack of ambulation etc.

    Your message is clear and vital... I saw so many families who "put it off" and it caused dissension and havoc... And needless suffering! The fact that your Mom was competent to decide for a brief time was like a delivery from angels, no doubt!


    Donna -"Ladyjustice"


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