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Compassionate Delivery of a Death Sentence

It's called 'Window Dressing'. Yes, that is what the medical field has done. I'm bringing up the hippocratic oath taken by doctors. And the constant statement "Do no harm" which had been taught whether in allopathic or alternative medical fields. And when they say, "Do no harm." That's not just in a physical manner. That also includes proper delivery of diagnosis. Addressing the needs of the patient unaware of medical practices, appropriately. It includes the psychology of the patient. It includes not giving unwanted personal opinions by phlebotomists, nurses and others in the medical community involved in a patient's healthcare.

Before the pandemic shutdown, my husband saw our internist for a physical. My husband was good with going to the doctor, the eye doctor and the dentist for checkups. 

My husband who followed medical regulations of the allopathic medical field, had a colonoscopy at that point just six years prior. Clean as a whistle, probably because of his diet of drinking grass in the morning, proper water ingestion and having a balanced diet. Too, having much organic foods in his diet. I was careful with the food I'd purchased for our family every week. I prepared most of our meals. We'd go out to eat about every three months as a family. No microwaving of anything in our home. We bought mostly organic coffee and grinded our beans at home.  

He exercised, running most days. Hid did pushups, chin ups, pull ups and light weight lifting when it wasn’t the season for heavy yard work as we have a farmer's acre of land. He raked leaves, had a push mower. We didn't use pesticides after 2005. And before then he barely used then on our front lawn, because i was totally against it. He would never hear the end of it all week long, if he had. He used a manual edger for our property's curb and walk lines. He hiked. He was an inner city school teacher, he took guitar lessons. He tutored inner city high school students in math many an early morning during the school year. Arriving at the school by half past six in the morning. 

He started the inner city high school's hiking club in 1995, a year after he'd become a teacher (this was his third career change) and ran it till he got sick in 2019. He rebooted their downhill ski club just years after he'd started/created their hiking club. Their downhill ski club had been non-existent for nearly a decade. 

He was a strong family-oriented man. He taught our daughters how to hike, ski, dive and swim. He was a feminist before I was, or before I knew I was. 

One day after being parents for a couple years, he proudly and with giddiness stated, "You know we are an interfaith and interracial family." I was completely oblivious to that fact, till he said it that day. He was a 'Now' kind of guy.

He was also the 'Bunny-Man', our primary pet caregiver. We seemingly always had three to four small pets since the children had entered elementary school.

He came from a good family. He didn't smoke. 

Our family of four didn't have a liquor cabinet. There'd be a beer or two laying in the bottom of the garage refrigerator for perhaps months on end, unless it was the summertime. And something I never thought about, as our oldest recently, now age twenty-one complained. Was that when her friends and her would try and get alcohol to drink illegally, my husband and I were considered the "Boring Parents", who had no liquor or liquor cabinet that her friends could from in our home. Oh "Sigh". LOL.

Now the story...

In August of 2019, my husband was given a clean bill of health by our internist. However, he'd had an upset stomach four weeks prior in July that year that lasted for five days, after he'd had a fancy coffee out with one of our daughters. He couldn't stop his 'ugly' burps. That was the only issue. Then it eased and no pain was present. In August our internist suggested an endoscopy after my husband explained that to him, even though the burping symptoms had been long gone.

I was against the doctor who he'd been suggested to use. But I knew that could change, I could find another doctor for him to get the endoscopy with. That was because his first appointment available for my husband was in December 2019. Which I thought was awfully ridiculous to be such a long wait. It didn't happen six years before, it'd been within six weeks of a wait. Now this was a near four month wait for the endoscopy. 

Also, when he'd had that colonoscopy six years before with this same doctor. He and his team over anesthesitized my husband to the point he almost didn't come out of it. They had him in place of a man, who was at least three inches taller and weighed probably sixty to seventy pounds more than my husband had.

Gets better, On that day, I realized something was wrong and the doctor and his nurse were not being honest with me. Funnier yet, as I stood there in my white therapy pants and my white work shoes. They scolded me for my reaction to their lieing and screwing up. What they didn't know was that I was on a professional level with two of their senior doctors and friends since 1987 with another senior doctor in their practice. The receptionist witnessed this as they'd seen me chat and shake hands with one doctor and asking how he was. And another doctor arrived, after we hugged we kidded around. Which was after I'd scolded back the young forty-something year old doctor and his nurse. The two shut up realizing that I was the wife of the guy they mistreated. They thought I was the other guy's wife who'd come in late, and were just getting him prepped and ready for his colonoscopy. After that, we received a report that my husband's colon was perfect, whistle clean, so to speak.

Fast forward to 2019. My husband told me that the endoscopy was not a rush, so he could wait till December if we couldn't find anyone I knew. I was satisfied with his response. However in the first ten days of October 2019 he had a five minute episode of pain that wrapped around the front bottom of his rib cage. He was at school when it happened and he told only one person who was present at the time. After that nothing happened till the evening of Friday, November 22nd, 2019.

Then as I was finishing my day, my phone older than five years fell on a gym bathroom floor and shattered, it broke. I have never been MIA from my husband or family. I'd always been available. Now, I was MIA for two hours, delayed by a shattered phone at 7:15pm. Later, I found out no one texted me or tried to call me. It was just trusted that I'd be home for them.

When I arrived home, I called out in a dark living room where across the way the dining room and kitchen lights were on, one child was studying at the dining room table, one was studying upstairs and as I turned the corner to go to where our youngest told me where 'Dad' was, and that he didn't feel good lights to the laundry room were also on. I went down the stairs and into our laundry room. There he was feeling pained, leaning on the washing machine trying to fold a piece of clothing. He said, "I need you to take me to the hospital." I replied, "Now. Let's go." He responded, "I'm not done cleaning the cage." I replied, "The kids can do it." He was Insistent on finishing cleaning a cage. I allowed him to explain his emergency to me. Then we went upstairs to the living room together. I remarked, "I'll give you 45 minutes. We are not delaying any further." He agreed. I sat on the couch monitoring him as he walked back and forth doing the seven minute cage cleaning and resetting. It was taking him longer as he was bent forward by an abnormal twenty plus degrees in pain. Then the pain eased after fifteen minutes. He knew he still needed to get to the emergency room which was five minutes from our home.

Soon, time was up. He'd collected any and all paperwork needed for an emergency room visit. I borrowed our youngest's phone and drove him to the hospital. He told me he could walk himself in and to text him when I got home. As he walked into the hospital's ER, he was upright walking methodically. Yet, my heart sunk. It's that eerie feeling I had. The uncertainty ruled.

We texted back and forth for six of the seven hours he was in the hospital. The one hour we couldn't text because of tests they'd run on him. I arrived back at the hospital's ER at half past six the next morning, Saturday, November 23rd, 2019.

The ER doctor on duty had a grim look on his face. He spoke, I read the report. I knew my husband was a dead man walking before seven that morning. I got my husband an appointment with a colleague of our internist whom I'd known as a jovial kind of doctor yet great at his job. We were there at that office less than four hours later with the reports. As well, the doctor had access online to the report from the hospital. 

As the internist had us seated, he went into the hospital portal. The once jovial internist of the group I knew had a serious effect on his face. He said, "Okay, you need to go to one of two hospital facilities that can handle this. One is in the city. Do not wait." He gave us the names of the places we were familiar with.

He looked at me with incredible depth, he saw my stoic look as I held some reports he'd now found online. It was a Saturday, there wasn't a ton we could do. Yet I told my husband he would not go back to work till we got to the bottom of this. He agreed.

In just three days we were steered to a surgeon for pancreatic cancer patients who was in the city at a 'said' reputable hospital for cancer. Too, we'd already gotten the name of an oncologist who was part of the city hospital only located in New Jersey twelve minutes from our home at an ancillary facility. 

My husband stayed home from work, contacted HR and teacher's union rep and his department head to get guidance from them. As well, to let them know exactly what was happening.  

He also set up a scan appointment in the city, and meeting with a surgeon there who came highly regarded. Too, we checked with a neighbor who knew the city, who wanted to help us and he took my husband in for his scan. I went in with my husband into the city for two consults and the biopsies. 

After the scan, it was all me in my husband's medical visits. I brought a kindle with me. I knew to just listen, maybe take some notes and keep my mouth shut. If I disagreed with something said or an attitude I'd open my kindle and act as if I'd disassociated and play solitaire. Even as a child I always knew when not to speak. 

As we met the surgeon for a consult. He explained he couldn't do anything till a biopsy was done. He was matter of fact, but had a personality that gave little away. He appeared a secure man who wouldn't jump to conclusions. Which I can appreciate. 

However, what I will not appreciate, is when a nurse drawing blood from my husband after the consultation says, "See you can eat right and exercise and it doesn't matter." Right then I wanted to clock this nurse across the room. I wanted to bash her greedy, medical-model bullshit head into the floor. Yet, I said nothing. I played solitaire. My husband glanced over at me, as I kept plain-faced and calm. I acted as though this happens every day. I saw his glance of disbelief, as I continued to play solitaire. 

The next visit to the facility was to be a same day biopsy. We were back in the city at the big reputable hospital for cancer. 

We sat and waited for him to be called. A doctor came out and explained that the procedure would be done in one hour and they gave me an item that buzzed me when my husband was in recovery. 

Soon they were interviewing him about allergies and such. I listened and only spoke when asked or my husband was uncertain about something about himself. 

The anesthesiologist came in. He was a runner, a young man. He asked, "You have a choice. Do you want general or twighlight anesthesia?" My husband turned to me and asked, "What's that?" I replied. "Honey, twighlight is best for you for this. Because first you had a problem with it years ago when you had a colonoscopy. And second, it is healthier to go in twighlight, faster recovery from anesthesia." I looked to the anesthesiologist and remarked, "Right?" He agreed. So, my husband went with twighlight. 

Soon I had to say 'goodbye' to my husband for an hour. I parted.

I was to be given updates they told me. I got none. As a matter of fact 90 minutes, the little gadget hadn't buzzed, and no one came to me. Then as it neared two hours, I sought out someone who could. It was well over two hours before I could see my husband. I was pissed. I kept my mouth shut. I followed this doctor into the chilled post-op recovery area. Nurses wore sweaters under their scrubs. Too, some you could see wore thick socks in their footwear. Basically they were bundled up in a sense, because of the cooler temps they kept that area of the hospital in. I was still wearing my sweater over my shirt and my winter jacket over that on. I was comfortable. When I entered my husband's room. He lay with a thin gown on, no covering, monitors hooked up, tears welled in his eyes. The nurse at this point had walked me the rest of the way into his room, as the doctor left in the hallway.

This young about thirty year old nurse was to monitor him on her computer around the corner in the hallway from his room.

She walked out, I saw him shivering. His oxygen was under 90, it was droppjng down to 82. His blood pressure normally 110 over 70, was climbing to 167 and bottom number was dropping. He was trying to tell me he was in pain. He could barely get the words out. He couldn't answer my question, "Are you cold or are you in pain?"

Tears poured out of his eyes. I saw a blanket, yet he sat up. I couldn't put it on him. I told him to stay still and not to move.

I had to physically find the nurse. She arrived in about a minute or so. She was nervous, I asked her, "What pain medication have you put him on?" She was stunned. She couldn't answer. I repeated, "What pain medication did they give him? Or did they not give him pain medication?" She responded as if she were Jackie Gleason who'd done something stupid and now had to answer to his wife Alice.

As she stammered, I said, "Check his chart. You're sitting at the computer right?" She scurried out of the room and came back with not knowing the answer. I remarked, "So, what are we going to do so he doesn't stroke out?" She was scared. I'd never in all my days have seen such a terrified nurse.

My husband then eeked out, "Pain." As tears rolled down his cheeks and his body shook uncontrollably. She ran out and came back in and asked me, "Should I give him Dilaudid?"

I replied, "If he hasn't had anything. He needs something. But you're the one to make this decision. Right?" My husband asked in slow motion, "What's that?" Here's a man who'd never taken anything like that. Neither was he on any medication of any kind regularly. 

I remarked, "A strong pain-killer Honey. We got to get your blood pressure in line and your oxygen level into the high 90s."

The Nurse then said. "Okay I'll give him the Dilaudid." She nearly questioning her own decision. I nodded calmly. She gave him the opioid, then she left. A minute later his oxygen went from 80 to 96. His blood pressure regulated in two minutes to 100 over 70. He stopped crying and stopped shivering. He was back. Totally coherent. Like his old self. I asked, "How you doing now?" He responded, "What was that?" I replied, "A narcotic called Dilaudid, I know people on it. You were in pain." He replied, "Oh yeah. It was horrible." He then said, "I have to pee." I said, "Okay. I'll get the nurse."

I brought the nurse in and she called for a male orderly to walk with him down the hallway to the bathroom.

He came back with the orderly smiling. They kidded around, my husband felt near all better.

About twenty minutes or so later the surgeon who did the biopsy arrived. He came in straight faced, a bit rough. I played my solitaire and listened, looked up here and there as he said, "So, we did ten biopsies and we will have the results Friday." It was Tuesday December 17th, 2019. He added, "When you get ready to leave they'll give you a form for you to read if anything should occur between now and then." He shook my husband's hand and left. 

We eventually were allowed to gather my husband's things, he got dressed, received the form letter and we soon exited out of the facility. It was night time. We got into our minivan, me driving, he had made himself two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with Pretzels and water to drink on the way home.

Friday, December 20th, 2019 soon arrived. My late morning and lunch house calls had cancelled. I was home at eleven in the morning on a Friday from work, which was uncharacteristic of me. My husband's phone rang. It was the surgeon who'd done the ten biopsies. He picked up, "Hey Doctor." He paused, "My wife is home from work. Can I put you on speaker?" He got the 'okay'.

The doctor spoke. "So, I did ten biopsies and it's definitely cancer. You need an oncologist." My husband responded, "I already set up that appointment for Monday." The doctor responded, "Oh good." And that was the end of the call. Yep, just like that.

December 23rd, 2019, Monday arrived. We drove to the ancillary facility close to home to meet with oncologist. 

When we walked into the facility, all you saw were people suffering from effects of their treatments. Some with healthy people sitting beside them. We checked in, we were twenty minutes early for his appointment. 

The unhealth that I witnessed, none of these people had lived the way my husband had. Which is the majority of the population of Americans. So to steer him away from the negativity that this type of facility sells, I brought us to a lone table with two chairs near wear the staff of the facility could get a bite to eat or cup of tea or coffee. 

Eventually, we were called an hour later than our appointment. I played solitaire as we were brought into an exam room. Two women a nurse/PA and a scribe sat together, as if they were consoling each other. They talked about procedures. It was very sanitary. Twenty minutes later the oncologist walked in with the two other women that had been there beforehand. 

The oncologist began, "This experiment has been done on 300 people in Paris. No nutrition, no herbs. Nothing else will work." He paused looked at me, as if lecturing me on what won't work. Don't even try it."...We've got people to eleven months... it will be every two weeks, five medications for eight months. You can't run. You can't shave. You can go outside under forty-five degrees. Wear a mask to get into the car if it is that cold on your days of treatment. The minute you get a cut, you have to go to the hospital." My husband asked, "Can you shrink it?" The oncologist stated, "No. We will try to slow it down." 

We were told the result of the experiment every two weeks for eight months, that he would have diarrhea, vomit, be constipated and so forth every two weeks for 7-10 days. And maybe he'd still be alive.

Basically my husband was just told he was going to die. And they wanted to use him as an American experiment. I played solitaire. Then at desk afterwards, my husband was signing up for the pic-line, the experiment essentially. He did it out of shock. I said nothing. 

We left. I got into the driver's seat and as we pulled away from the facility, my husband turned to me and said, "Jody, I just found out I'm going to die." I replied, "Yeah. I know." He then asked, "You knew already?" I replied, "Yes, I knew it the morning of November 23rd. It was not in my purview to tell you that. It would have been unethical and against my licensure purposes." He nodded. We drove in near silence home.

His brother told him to call him December 26th, for he was busy traveling and visiting grandchildren. The day came. The two were on the phone crying. I stayed in the kitchen as hubby was in the living room on the phone. After his brother heard all the procedures and the things his brother was no longer going to be allowed to do if he did the experiment. I heard his brother say, "But where's the brass ring? Where's the brass ring?" Then my husband responded, "I know just the treatments will kill me. There's no quality there." More conversation passed between the two of them. Then I heard my husband say to his brother, "That's it. I'm not doing the experiment. I'm canceling it all. I can't do that to myself."

Good God, I breathed. He now could live with whatever time he had left the way he always had. And he did. He lived, he ran, he shaved. He ate well. He shoveled snow. All of it. He mowed the lawn in May 2020. His pain was controlled by no more than two percoset at most a day. The last two weeks in July 2020 his pain abated, till hiccups arrived in the last 29 hours of his life. The last 13 hours we got hospice care to ease the pain of the hiccups. His pancreas had failed and the liver was now failing, after it had taken up the pancreatic load.  

In all that time, he never had diarrhea, constipation, nor vomitted. He ate his last meal of 500 calories of peaches, and cream and yogurt 20 hours prior. His eyes got healthy went from yellow to white. He fed himself water four hours before he passed. 

I later found out that they expected him to passed by March 1st 2020. He lasted with quality far beyond that. So, when does medicine face themselves and treat even a possible experiment or a dieing man with compassionate delivery of a death sentence?

---Jody-Lynn Reicher 


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