Monday, December 27, 2010

Today I Took Someone Off of Life Support

I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist, and have been for close to twenty years now.  As a Respiratory Therapist, I manage the ventilators; the Life Support Machines.  Our job is to keep people breathing and their hearts beating.  A lot of the time, I remove the Endotrachal tube because the person is now able to breathe on their own, they are doing well, and it is a good thing.  Sometimes, I must remove the tube because the patient is worse and will never get better.  I am removing the tube so that the patient can die.  For the last three days, I have been taking care of a patient.  I have been speaking with her children and teaching them about the ventilator.  Today, we discovered through tests that she would never get better.  The family asked us to remove the ventilator.  Her children are in their 50’s and maybe even early 60’s.  The daughter told me to take out the tube, since her Mom was not going to get better, she did not want her to suffer any more.  I got the Doctor’s order, I went to the room.  The patient’s son stopped me, grabbed me, and I hugged him and he sobbed on my shoulder for what must have been about a minute.  He said this in my ear, “We want you to know that we appreciate everything you have done for my Mom.  We are so glad that you are the one that will be doing this. …etc”  I was so moved by that I began to cry. I went into the room and prepared everything.  I spoke to the patient although she was not awake.  I told her that she must be a good mother to have all of her children surrounding her and loving on her.   I took out the tube and the RN adjusted the patient’s medications so that she would be comfortable.  I looked at the family surrounding their Mom as she slipped into eternity.  I felt how blessed they must feel to have all of their loved ones right there at her bedside at this moment.  They held hands, they hugged each other, and they were all able to be there for their Mom and for each other.

Where will I be if my loved one slips into eternity?  Will I be able to be at her bedside?  If I die before her, will my children and my sweetheart be able to be at my bedside?  Will they be able to offer and receive support, hugs and love from family…or will they be forced to be far away in another country because the United States does not recognize same sex couples in Immigration Laws? 

It is a well known and documented fact that the three days following Christmas Day, hospitals are amazingly busy.  It seems that we consider being with our families more important than our own health.  During the holidays, people travel all round the country, and yes internationally to be with family.  

I want to be with my family also.  I want my friends to be able to be with their families.  It is not right that Federal Law prohibits us from this basic, visceral and primitive instinct …. To be with our loved ones; to be with our love; just to be is all that we want

Tonight, when you tuck your children into bed, kiss their foreheads, and thank God that your children are happy and healthy, know that there are Moms that are unable to hold their children and kiss them good night.  Know that there are spouses who have not held each other for months.  These people have done nothing evil, sinful, or even a crime.  They have fallen in love with someone who is not born in the United States of America.  It is only because we are homosexual and we are not recognized as human beings with basic human rights.

The time is now; we must get the Uniting American Families Act passed.  We can no longer tolerate this horrific punishment, these cruel laws that separate us from our families. 

To Quote a Barry Manilow song:
          And Tell me
          When will our eyes meet
          When can I touch you
          When will this strong yearning end…
and when will I hold you again

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