Saturday, March 9, 2013


I kept telling myself that, at my age, I need to get that tattooed somewhere on my chest so it can’t be missed.

My problems are a) with my boobs rapidly descending to my ankles, it’s almost guaranteed to look like the Chinese hieroglyphic for Moo Shu Pork  and b) I have this whole aversion to needlessly  poking needles into my skin and injecting dye into the holes!
Other than that  I’d get right on it!

A recent news item that stirred up huge tempests in several teacups was about the nurse at an independent living center who dialed 911 to report a resident ‘down’ – and then refused to perform CPR on her while waiting for EMS to respond.

From the public outcry about her actions – or lack therof – you’d think she’d choked her, placed her in a garbage bag and left her in a landfill.

As I listened to the talking heads debate what happened and how reprehensible it was, it occurred to me that NONE of these commentators must ever have been in the position of making that decision for an elderly parent, never have faced end of life issues for themselves and are therefore still suffering from our cultures misguided belief that simply because we can do something, we should do it.

Seems simple - CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a means of trying to restore circulation and breathing to a person who has no pulse or is not breathing.

Portrayals of it in movies and on TV shows would have you believe that it is a highly effective treatment for just about anyone who has collapsed.
Come on now… do you believe everything else you see on TV? It's not called 'the boob tube' for nothing!

The success of CPR is based on many things, including the cause of the respiratory arrest, the underlying health of the victim, the time elapsed between the arrest and CPR being started and the technique used by the person performing CPR.

A recent study found that on TV shows, CPR successfully revived the victim 75% of the time – that is more than double the most conservative real-life estimates.

Most victims on TV shows were young and required CPR following trauma or a near drowning – conditions with the highest success rates.
Also, on TV shows, victims either die – or have a complete recovery.
Months of rehab, markedly impaired quality of life post CPR and lifelong disabilities just aren’t sexy sitcom fodder.

The reality is there’s less than a 5% success rate of CPR being effective for elderly victims with multiple medical problems.

I’m willing to believe the staff at the living center knew their patient, knew her medical conditions, what her wishes were and those of her family and had a better idea of how long she’d been ‘down’ than the police dispatcher.

The dispatchers heartfelt and I’m sure very genuine lament “This woman will die if we don’t get this started, do you understand?” needs to call us, as a society, to a deeper reality that we’re ALL  going to die – and that CPR – or any medical intervention for that matter, may not be either wanted or warranted.

I think the only thing that needs to be reviewed by this facility is their policy of calling 911 in the first place.

Note to self – or my children making the tough choice of where to ‘put’ me - check the fine print and make sure that’s NOT in the rulebook of the home you pick!

Or  sedate me and take me to the tattoo parlor first!

1 comment:

Mark said...

This is a tough one. When I first started reading this, I thought, how could she not.
Then, you bring up the fact that who knew what the wishes of the patient were?
But then, I never heard of anyone writing down, if I collapse don't perform CPR, but then again it's quite possible millions of people may have written that down and I haven't heard of it. Interesting post, tough one to figure out.
And me, my record is 0%. Performed it once to no avail.