• Martha Calihan MD

A Call I've Been Dreading

I got the call this morning…the call I have long dreaded. My mother had fallen, and it turns out, had fractured her hip. In this era of the pandemic, no one was allowed with her in the Emergency room ..she was there alone, in pain and scared.

And within an hour or two, the doctors were on the phone, asking for consent for surgery from me, her health care proxy. She was awake, but had been heavily medicated for pain and they needed my input and consent.

It was in that moment that my gratitude for the many, many hours we had spent talking about dying and the end of life was palpable.

I knew what was important to her, what her desires were, what she did and didn’t want to have done.

Yes, we had the papers signed, and that was helpful. But more than that, I knew, really knew, what she wanted. And what she didn’t want. Over the past couple of years we have talked about it, again and again. the “what-ifs”…the theoretical and the specifics. I knew her values, what mattered to her and what decisions she would make, had already made.

So when I spoke with the physicians and stated her desire for no heroics, no resuscitation if her heart stopped, even in surgery, I was able to do it with the full confidence that I was making the decision for her that I knew she wanted. The decision that all of my siblings knew she wanted; the decision we all understood and agreed with. The weight of speaking that decision for another was eased by my unwavering knowledge that this was her decision; that I was honoring what she had chosen.

I am grateful for all the hard and difficult discussions, over the years that got us to this place of knowing.

We have to have these conversations with those we love in our lives…..and we should be having those conversations now. And then again, and then again. With repetition it becomes less hard.

And we need to do it now, before it’s too late.

Because that call will come.


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