I got one of those phone calls this afternoon. You know what I’m talking about, one of those calls where you pick up and hear your family member on the other line speaking in a slow, sad voice. Your blood pressure drops right away because already know what they’re going to say.
My last living grandmother died today.
This was nothing at all like the slow, degenerative multiple sclerosis that destroyed my nanny Betty. This was a sudden tragedy, and no one ever saw it coming.
It all started a few months ago. My grandmother went into the hospital for a hip replacement surgery, and the doctors incidentally noticed that she had a leaking heart valve in the x-rays. The surgeon told her that without an urgent open heart surgery, she could die suddenly.
My grandmother went in for the heart surgery last month, and everything seemed to be going smoothly, until we learned that she had developed a postoperative infection.
The last month has been a nightmare for me and my family as my grandmother’s condition continued to deteriorate. She was put on a ventilator and a dialysis machine 24/7 because she could no longer breath on her own and her kidneys had failed.
A few days ago, when it had become apparant that my grandmother would never recover from this, the doctors reduced her sedative so that we could finally talk to her. We explained the situation, and she responded by trying to rip out the breathing tube so that she would die. The doctors put her back under sedation.
Before undergoing this surgery, my grandmother expressed her wishes in the form of a living will. If she did not recover from this operation, she did not wish to spend the last years of her life hooked up to machines.
Today, my family has been forced to make an extremely painful decision. We honored my grandmother’s last wishes and withdrew life support. On Thursday, I will be flying home to South Florida for the funeral and Shivah.