Friday, November 05, 2004


I pointed to where she needed to sign. Patient U's wife signed the DNR form with a heavy hand. I watched her carefully write in the date, but then her pen paused after writing the comma on "October 29,"

Sometimes during times of distress, it's easy to forget little things, like the current year. Patient U's wife was signing a DNR form regarding her husband of 47 years that lay dying in the ICU. DNR: Do Not Resuscitate. A form that dictates whether or not lifesaving measures can be performed in the event of Patient U's cardiovascular or pulmonary collapse. The form she was signing dictated that no lifesaving measures were to be taken. No heroic efforts would be made if his heart stopped. She was telling me in writing that if her husband's heart stops, I am to let him die.

"It's 2004."

"No honey," she replied quietly, "On October 29, 1999, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband, an avid outdoorsman that could never stay indoors for more than a hour at a time, stood by my side the whole time and never left me.

"He took me to every doctor's visit, every radiation treatment, and sat with me during every chemotherapy session. When my hair fell out he was there to help me laugh and get on with my life. He sat by me after my mastectomy and nursed me back to health. He was the reason I survived. And now..." she quietly began to sob. "And today..."

Her voice drifted off. I looked down at her trembling hands, and noticed that a tear had landed on the "29", blurring its margins.