LETTER: Husband’s pain offers dying lessonTo the Telegram: This concerns anyone who has a defibrillator or anyone who knows someone with a defibrillator.
To the Telegram:
This concerns anyone who has a defibrillator or anyone who knows someone with a defibrillator.
My husband recently passed away. Many times throughout his life, he contributed to the well-being of his community and his nation. He was a retired Army first sergeant who fought in WWII, Korea and was involved in the Berlin Crisis. After 22 years, he retired.
After retiring, he had a heart attack only to be told he had also had one while he was serving. His heart problems escalated until he eventually had to have a defibrillator. The pacemaker was put in by doctors at a VA hospital. He later received a replacement battery from a local hospital. Neither warned us of the pitfall of the device — the agony endured if the device is not shut off in your last hours.
For the last month, his body was shutting down on him. It was terrible to watch as anyone who has lost a loved one can attest.
His last breath was preceded by three hard bursts of his defibrillator, and as the pain crossed his face, his heart finally stopped. As those who have been shocked by their defibrillators will tell you, it is like being kicked in the chest by a mule. His body tried to turn into itself to protect his heart, his eyes pleased with me to help him. I was helpless because I was not informed when he had the defibrillator installed that this could happen. I will never forget that pain in his eyes until my dying day. I am very angry that he had to suffer so.
This should not have happened. He was being cared for by nursing home staff and by hospice, who neglected to have it shut off. He was unable to communicate the reason for his pain and that although he may have wanted to let go, his defibrillator would not let him. I later discovered that nursing home staff were unaware that it needed to be shut off.
My niece is the only one I know with a defibrillator, and she and her children have now been warned to make sure the defibrillator is shut off. I have since heard of other families who had to watch that same suffering. Although I have warned my niece I feel my husband’s suffering should stand for something, as did his life.
His legacy to this community is a warning. If you have a defibrillator or know of someone who does, remember to ask for it to be shut off if the final hours are near. If you are in the medical profession, a doctor, a nurse, a CNA, be aware of the extra suffering that happens because it is not turned off. Spread the word to other medical personnel. Train staff members on this subject.
I pray this letter helps many, but even if it only helps a few, my husband’s suffering and the pain in his eyes I will never forget will not be in vain.