Going “Zero to Caregiver” – Advance Directives make a Difference

By Tamera Whitlow, LVN, USAF

Our second day was eventful at the hospital. Things started to move rapidly. The final straw was when they came to ask for consent for evasive procedures and informed it would be safer if they moved us to ICU so we could have a nurse one on one. His heart is frailer and tired. The lack of sleep, pain and the unknown are starting to show on his face. As I watch I know he is tired, and I will become his fight to live. In his eyes I can see fright, worry, regret and exhaustion. He is begging to just close his eyes and go to sleep until it is over, so he pulls the cover over his head. Today is our wedding anniversary of 24 years. As I reminisce about our marriage it was always this way, I took care of the battles and conflict and he was all jokes and pranks.

Our door reminds me of the doors you find at hotels that go around and around and around. Consent forms, doctors for each specialty, nurses, social workers, surgeon team, heart team, LVAD team. His heart can no longer push fluids to his organs, so now we take the next door in keeping him alive. Feeling stunned, stressed and overwhelmed by it all, it is informed consent time once again––to hear the risk that each procedure brings and its saving qualities. I have insisted he be awake and hear about each procedure and sign his own consent forms. He is definitely not excited at being an informed patient and wants me to do all the paperwork. He just does not want to hear it. He now needs an Intra-Aortic Balloon device; it will be his heart in a machine. Our bridge to keep him alive until he is cleared to have heart surgery. And we sign and wait.

I had no idea how many decisions we would have to make. Knowing what is important makes such a difference on you emotionally and supporting the caregiver is just as critical as patient care.