The grass is tickling my toes. There is a soft warm breeze rustling my hair, and sunshine is reflecting off of my sunglasses so the face of the person talking to me is reflected back to him.
We came for a picnic, complete with a checkered blanket and basket of food. Just as he begins pulling the grapes from the basket a loud piercing cry is heard from the trees to our left.
We look to each other and after a few seconds of silence with held breath, we get up together and start walking into the trees. The only sound at first is the leaves crunching beneath our feet. Then, we hear the sobbing echoing through the growth and my heartbeat begins to slam in my chest. There! Just behind a tree we see an old man and his granddaughter. The little girl is screaming into her phone to the Emergency Dispatcher. As soon as she sees us, she really wails.
The old man’s skin is damp and pale in the face. He is obviously not breathing. Fishing poles are dropped nearby and they are both wearing fishing gear. My husband drops immediately to his knees shoving the fishing vest aside. He lays his ear to listen and starts feeling for a pulse and breathing. While my husband begins CPR, he tosses me the man’s cellphone without a word. I take the girls cell phone put it on speaker and let my husband give the details of the situation. I grab the little girl to give my husband distance to work as I look into the man’s phone for his ICE, In Case of Emergency contact. The little girl is shivering in my arms and talking so rapidly I can’t tell what she’s saying. My hands are trembling too and it’s hard to type.
Finding his wife, I place a call. Just as it connects I give her a description of the situation and ask for the prefered hospital of care, she stops talking. I hear sirens and ask her if she has one in mind. She mumbles and I ask her to speak louder please, “He has a DNR.” My husband sensed me freezing and looked up at me, I said nothing more than, “DNR”. He removed his hands at the same time that the man gasps his first breath.
We did not know he had a Do Not Resuscitate order and brought him back.
The little girl drops and hugs him gently crying anew with tears of relief and joy. But, my husband and I know the horror in the situation. I hear a strange sound and feel the slightest of vibrations in my palm just as the paramedics find us.
I look down and realize that I’m still holding the phone with the man’s wife on the line. I place the phone to my ear and say “We didn’t know in time, my husband already performed CPR and your husband is being loaded into the ambulance. He has a pulse and is trying to breathe on his own, but the paramedics are having to assist his breathing.” I watch as the man looks my husband in the eye briefly, but he cannot speak through the oxygen mask.
His wife then says, “Thank you! Oh! Thank you! I’m so happy you didn’t know in time!” She then breaks down crying on the phone. My hands are trembling and my heart is slamming in my chest with the reality we may have brought a man who did not want to suffer anymore back this earth to possibly suffer for even longer. My feeling deep down though is that he could not be ignored! I look to the little girl and know for a certainty that by watching us do our best she can at least feel peace that she is not alone and other people care.
The little girl I pick up, giving her my name and tell the grandmother where to meet us. After the phone disconnects, I ride in the back seat with the little girl, who keeps anxiously asking us if her grandfather will be ok. She kneads her little hands and tried to talk through her sobs. We say that we could not tell her for sure, but not to worry, she will see him again. There is simply no more we can say.
When we arrive at the hospital I am greeted with the aseptic smell, the familiar rushing scene, and the cold feeling- fear begins to pump in my chest. I hate hospitals at times like this. About a half an hour later the Wife of the old man comes. She comforts her granddaughter and hugs us. Just as we are about to leave she taps my shoulder and says, “Our children died a year ago. We are all this child has left for family. When Ted made that DNR it was before they died. I know now he really wants to go on and at least see her through high school. So thank you.”
Later, my husband and I received a letter through the hospital that the man wrote. He had cancelled his DNR while at the hospital, and was so thankful to still be on this earth. He asked us a question that I still ask myself today… “While I am still recovering from the trauma of the event, I feel myself growing stronger everyday. I feel as if you were my chosen angels to help me stay here a bit longer. Because of your actions that day you have given me renewed feelings about life and going on for my granddaughter. Thinking on my reasoning for choosing the DNR, I now can say I do not feel the same. I do wonder, If you had known of the DNR would you have stopped and let me go?”
Truth is we don’t know. Thinking of that little girl makes it hard to say. It goes against both our instincts, but we also understand the reasoning behind why such things happen. To suffer everyday. To feel like a burden to your loved ones. To think that your cycle in life is complete so let it be what it will be. These feelings have validity and should not be ignored. To continue on when these are the wishes of another being can bring so much pain. For the loved ones who have chosen to be unselfish enough to accept their loved ones decisions. For those who no longer want the one they love to hurt anymore. Ignoring such will is wrong.
Yet…to see a being in need of help, dying before your eyes…could you do nothing? Could you see their Jewelry that says DNR on it and do no more than hold their hand? To see a child next to the person they love crying and begging you for help, could you know they had a DNR and simply shake your head no; then maybe say “I’m sorry.” To proceed on anyway could be met with forgiveness or anger. Perhaps realizing they have a new purpose and want to continue; or seen as maybe it wasn’t the right time for them to go after all. It could incite pain and suffering for the person now forced to go on. What would you do?