For as far back as I can remember my father was an independent man. Even at the age of 86, he refused to let others provide for him, preferring to live on his own, and be his own person despite any weaknesses. I admired this quality about him and respected his strength. I never thought that his freedom would be challenged, especially at the time of his death. In June of 2009, my father started experiencing weakness and had difficulty speaking, he called 911 for assistance. When I received the call from the hospital, I was told that my father had lost consciousness. And when I got to his side and spoke to the doctor on duty, he told me that my father would never fully recover. He had had a serious stroke, and although there were drugs that they could give him to keep him alive, he would spend the rest of his life in a rehabilitation centre or a home, most likely as a hemiplegic.
Knowing the man my father was, confirmed by previous discussions we had had, I knew that this kind of a life would be torturous for him. He was ready to die; he would not want to live the remainder of his life as a dependant. And when I told the doctor that we didn’t want any treatment, that we wanted to let him die with dignity, I thought he would understand. He didn’t. His response shocked me. There was such anger in his voice as he informed me that if I was going to “refuse treatment,” I would have to take my father and leave, “just go home.” There was no support or compassion; he didn’t care to think about what would be best for my father as a human being, rather than a body.
I began to cry, unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation. I felt helpless.
I don’t know what would have happened or what I would have done, had it not been for the nurse on duty that day. This nurse saved my father. As I was crying, she came up to me quietly and told me not to worry. She let me know that the doctor on duty was due to leave his shift in 10 minutes, and she told me to call my family and have them come to be with him at the hospital. After the doctor left, this nurse gave my father a quiet room, where he could die in peace amongst the presence of his family.
She did everything she could to ensure that both my father and my family were comfortable. He died as I know he would have wanted. He was never admitted to hospital.