August 29, 2011

Religion vs Science & The Imaginary Cousin

There's a distant relative of my mom's who happens to live in Utah. Not the closest by any means but it wasn't uncommon to see her and her family at the main family functions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) In fact, when mom would talk about her, we used to make fun and tell her that it was her imaginary cousin because it took a while for us to finally meet her....I know, crude.

It appears that  sometimes news about bad health or tragedy hits family all at once, when it rains it pours, right? Aside from dealing with mom's illness two weeks ago this cousin (who is in her mid-30's, 2 small children under age six) had a severe brain hemorrhage from which she has not been able to recover. She is currently in a coma, connected to machines that breathe and pump life into her. I had been talking to her husband, visiting the hospital and trying to be as much help as I can in whatever way it can be provided and her mom arrived from Mexico a few days ago on a humanitarian visa. 

The doctors had a meeting with the family yesterday about a couple of possible options:
1. Pull the plug, plain and simple. Her injury is not where the brain can regenerate itself. She has no way to respond to any kind of stimuli and prone to infections of all kinds (as hospitals are prone to be perfect places for this).
2. Fit her with more breathing/feeding tubes and send her to a nursing home still plugged in to machines until someone decides what to do with/about her, still no hope for her to ever wake up or respond to any kind of treatment or surgery.

Her mom is a "born again Christian" she swears that God will bring her daughter back. The cousin's LDS bishop keeps giving her blessings and basically pronouncing that if the cousin is strong enough she'll pull herself out of the coma with God's help (not the most impressed with the bishop's approach if you ask me). The doctors say there's really no hope. My cousin's husband says that they never discussed the "if I'm ever in a situation, this is what I'd want done..." nor the possibility of organ donation so he is/was as lost as could be--trying to hang on to hope as well as trying to be as realistic as possible and yet making sure that no one thinks that all he wants to do is pull the plug either--I hope I never have to be in that situation or put anyone though that misery but at least I've made my likely choices vocal to the people who may have to decide for me.

As I sat in the family meeting with the specialists, the social worker--God bless his soul--made the best effort at trying to explain the scientific base for the doctor's recommendations vs the family's desires to hang on to all hope and expectation for miracles--and he did a great job in my mind, I'm sure they're experts at managing the God vs Science issue from dealing with this day in and day out, but it still must be a hard thing to do. They're having another meeting today to make a final decision, possibly by this evening--but by all indications they'll be pulling the plug. Part of me wants to be a fly on the wall to watch all of this unfold, it is pretty fascinating (in a morbid kind of way). 

Life is so freaking fragile. Sure we go through it thinking to ourselves that we are invincible, but let's face it, it can be taken away in a blink of an eye. My cousin was a seemingly healthy woman, full of life and hopes for her family and here she stands at the gates of life and death. All I could wonder was when was the last time she got a chance to hold her babies, kiss her husband and tell him she loved him or enjoy the rain on her face, the scent of a flower and watch a slow-paced sunset on the horizon. I sure hope she did...

How often do we take the time to do those things that seem so small and menial yet they hold the most meaning to us when we look at what matters because again, no one knows when it may be our turn or how it will happen. So hold and hug your loved ones, don't let any time pass without them knowing of your love for them; take time and enjoy the little things that will mean the most in the long run...

That's all.

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