Valerie Ihsan

author, editor, dog lover

This morning, my husband went in for oral surgery to extract a broken tooth.

"If I don't wake up, I want you to sue them," he said, teasingly.

That, coupled with the Radio Lab episode ("Dead Reckoning") we listened to the day before, was enough to get me thinking. Again.

The guys on Radio Lab said that something like 80% of all doctors surveyed said they wouldn't wish to be resuscitated, nor put on a ventilator, nor would opt for CPR. Only pain meds.

One doctor even tattooed "No Code" onto his skin. Most, that are so inclined, wear a bracelet saying Do Not Resuscitate or No Code. In contrast, mainstream population says almost the opposite. But that's because they don't know what the doctors do. And that's a sobering thought.

After we finished listening to the episode (on our way to breakfast), Ali closed the car door.

"Do you see now, why I say I don't want all that?" he said.

Ali has long-stated that he doesn't want to be kept alive artificially. That it's torture and he doesn't want to feel trapped in his body--awake but paralyzed.

I've come to an uneasy truce with this and have terrifyingly agreed to his wishes. But my fear is, what if I unwittingly let him die without a fight when modern medicine could've saved him? Or the yucky-painful-situation-or-treatment was temporary and then he could have had a prolonged life to wrap things up and say goodbye, or even to live a relatively comfortable life after that?

What if I let him die when I could've saved him?

It's hard to think about. It reminds me of my first child, a day after I gave birth. I was breastfeeding them and a nurse happened to be in the room when Clover's face turned dark.

"What's happening?!" I said. I forced the question out of my lungs in a croaky whisper that sounded loud in my ears.

The nurse nudged Clover.

"Hey!" she said. Not loud, but like she was getting Clover's attention.

Clover's color came back and they continued eating.

"What happened?" I asked again.

"Sometimes, because they are so little and new, babies just forget to breath," she said.

I was horrified. For a year, I kept worrying they'd do it again. Die of SIDS. Just forget to breath.

So, what if Ali's "death" was something accidental that could've been reversed with a simple, "Hey!" in medical procedures?

What if his heart just got confused for a minute? What if he just forgot to breath?

And I didn't resuscitate.

What then?


Find more articles on my archived blog, Dust Yourself Off (also known as Insane Parents Unite!).

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