Exploring Resilience via Lifes Burning Issues

Tag: decisions (Page 2 of 11)

In Limbo….

 

 

 

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In the last post I talked about the degree of difficulty about some of the decisions that are heading our way in deciding how to care for Samuel.

What is happening with Samuel now ?

Not much has changed since the last post. Samuel’s antibiotics have been changed trying to deal with the mutation in one of the bugs that have colonised his lungs, and they seem to have had a bit of success (depending on how you define success in these circumstances), but the options for antibiotics now are extremely limited.

Samuel has had periods of being awake and relatively alert, however he remains sleepy overall and having continued periods of “desaturation” (decreased oxygen in his blood) despite being on increased pressures on his BiPap. His heart rate has been somewhat erratic, fluctuating up and down, and when he goes to sleep slowing down to rates much slower than we have ever seen. He does not seem to be moving his chest much when he is desaturating and does not seem to moving much air (in other words it looks like the BiPap machine is doing most of the work for him when he is in these periods).

In the past when Samuel has been “on the mend” we have had increasing periods of time with him tolerating being off his BiPap without desaturating, with these periods increasing as the length of his admission has gone along. This time he is not tolerating any time of his machine.

The continuing question….

What does it all mean now?

It really does look like Samuel is getting worn out and tired and that his body may be beginning to give up the fight, but there are still no real answers to what it all means. There are not crystal balls, and even the Doctors, despite acknowledging that things are not looking good and may not get better, keep referring to Samuel’s history of looking grim and then bouncing back.. but they just don’t know.

The only good news is that Samuel does appear to be comfortable and not in a lot pain (or at least not giving us the signals he usually does when he is in pain)

It feels like Limbo…

Being in limbo means being in an intermediate state or place… it’s also a dance/game of seeing how low you go. The game has only two outcomes you bend as far as you can possibly go and pull yourself back up onto your feet… or… you fall over.

At the moment it feels like we are definitely in an intermediate state… and playing the game of limbo.. but our game looks the one in the image above… where we are not only at risk of falling over, but it feels like we are also at risk of bursting into flames!

Where to?

We have choices to make NOW in relation to how much more we do and where we do it. Do we continue to do whatever will be decided at hospital, or do we move into the pediatric hospice environment at the beautiful Bear Cottage, a place that has also done a great job of supporting us as a family since Samuels accident?

While we have been having numerous discussions with our various medical teams.. we have a conversation coming up with our main pediatrician and it really is time to think about a plan.. whatever that means. The reality remains it is all about keeping Samuel comfortable, pain free and to always have one of us present with him.

 

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image credit Steve_W

Degree of difficulty 10.0

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Samuel remains in hospital and the watching and waiting for the spark in his eyes to burst into flame continues.

In a recent status update on Facebook I described the experience being like taking one step forward, three sideways and one back… while adding in a triple somersault in a half pike position.

If that sounds like it is a degree of difficulty of around 9.0 then the thoughts and discussions that we are having have a degree of difficulty of 10.0…..Thinking about issues of death and dying are nothing new on this blog, or indeed new to Samuel’s circumstances. However, with every new twist decisions become more palpable and pressing.

What is happening with Samuel?

It was all looking good, or should I say better. Increased alertness, noise making.. better air entry in both lungs, saturation levels looking ok, blood gas levels ok, and then…..

The temperature spiked, his work of breathing increased.. he went from his nasal Bi-Pap mask back to his full face Bi-Pap mask and his pressures needed to be increased again.. extreme difficulty drawing blood for the necessary tests, blood coagulating very quickly, blood gases being a bit out of whack and continuing problems with his electrolyte levels.. particularly being a bit low on potassium (important for regulating things like the heart rhythm).. and he has less of the life and spark in his eyes again.

Then some results come back and one of the bugs in his lungs has mutated and is becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics (which are already in the “last line of defence” category).

What does it all mean?

If only there was a simple answer to that question. What it means is more questions than answers.

I’ve always been interested in the question about what constitutes a good life, but know its time to also contemplate the question about what constitutes a good death?

Where do you look for advice like that?

Our experience with all of Samuel’s doctors and nurses at the Childrens Hospital at Westmead (CHW) has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and they are all doing what they can to sit with us and discuss questions about what is happening to Samuel, what it means and the type of decisions we may have to make.

The World Health Organisation defines palliative care as “the active and total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the child’s family”. Our teams at CWH really are doing a great job of meeting this definition.. as they have across the years. The conversations are just becoming more intense, more focused and in some ways more specific around treatment decisions.

There are some decisions that we may be forced to make, and there are some that Samuel or circumstances will dictate and/or take out of our hands.

What is a good and natural death?

We already have, and have had for quite a while an “Allow Natural Death” order in place, limiting the scope of treatment that can be implemented in the case that Samuel goes into respiratory or cardiac arrest.

I have read a fair bit around the associated decision making, including reading the “Decision Making at the end of life in infants, children and adolescents” Policy document of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, so that I can really understand where some of the obligations, rights and responsibilities of our medical teams are coming from.

It sets out principles including Respect for Life, A duty to act in the best interests of the child, and palliative care, Autonomy and Competence and Right to information and choice. It includes discussion about withholding or withdrawing treatment, It even includes a section dealing with Severe Neuorlogical Impairment.. clearly where Samuel fits.

It talks about quality of life….. and how subjective that issue is.. as conditions progress what really is quality of life??

I’ve also read a few other bioehtics articles around end of life decision making.. some of these involve discussion of concepts like “a life worth living” and “a life not worth living” and “determining thresholds”. as harsh as they sound from a “medical professional” point of view all of the concepts used make sense.

BUT WHAT ABOUT….

It doesn’t matter how much sense all the policy documents and academic bioethics papers make.. what about when it is your child??

Being confronted with the REAL questions about what is the plan from here, what will we consider, what wont we consider, when will we make decisions about different aspects of treatment none of those arguments matter.. it is simply gut wrenching and there are no answers.

I referred to courage again in the last couple of posts… but I don’t know what courage looks like here. Yes I’ll whisper to myself that I’ll try again tomorrow, yes tomorrow we will be thinking about these things again.. the answers probably won’t be any clearer.

Right now the issue is about overcoming my own fear about making the right decisions for Samuel. Decisions that will keep him as comfortable as possible, not allow him to be overly distressed and ultimately to try and make sure that he does not die on his own when that time comes (even though that is something we simply can’t control.)

Then again…

Samuel always has his way, and he is just as likely to turn around, pick up and look at as like “whats all the fuss, let’s go home” (and do this all again some other time!)

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