Saturday, November 27, 2004

What would you do?

We were discussing (not on my regular floor) the Hemicorporectomy Guy yesterday. One of the nurses asked if he had a family and kids and grandkids and so on, because she "couldn't imagine living like that if I didn't have something else to live for."


I replied that I hoped I'd never have to make the choice, but that there was still an awful lot I wanted to do and see and learn, and that maybe I could manage with half a body.

"But you'd only be half a person" she protested.

Double wow. And this from a rehabilitation nurse. Who works with amputees and paras and quads all the time.

There's a difference between being half a person and being a whole person in half a body. Obviously. As far as I can recall, I've never met a half-person. I mean, I've never met anybody so stunted or handicapped emotionally or mentally that they weren't able to appreciate, at least on some level, the same things that the rest of us do. People who are persistently vegetative or profoundly mentally handicapped respond well to touch and music and other sorts of stimulation; just because they can't talk politics doesn't make them a half a person.

Likewise, losing the bottom half of your body doesn't make you a half a person. You still have a brain, a mind, and the technology to get around physically. You can still roll around the middle of Seattle or Paris or wherever you'd like. You can still type, write the Great American Novel, or compose music. It would take determination and imagination and a hell of a lot of help, but you're not half a person without your legs.

Living only for your kids and grandkids in that sort of situation strikes me as unfair, both for them and for you. Maybe your kids and grandkids would feel terribly guilty, knowing that you didn't want to be alive, really, except for them. And what sort of barriers are you setting up to your own growth if you say, "The only reason I'm alive today is for you"?

Hell of a burden to bind on anybody else's shoulders, I say.

In other news

You'll notice a new link on this page. The link goes to Ivo Drury's medical blog, which is part of his physician career consulting site. I'd mentioned some weeks ago that I was considering taking advertising here, and this is it. I feel okay about imploring readers to click his links because I click them myself. Ivo is a concise, entertaining writer. He expresses the humanity necessary in medicine in ways that anyone can understand. He's not afraid to expose his own vulnerabilities or talk about his own mistakes.

So click the damned link, already.

Nota bene: I am being paid for hosting his ad, yes. The monies that come in from that are going to charity: half to pay for an annual exam at Planned Parenthood for some person with no money and half to pay for shots and a check-up for some puppy or kitty-cat with no dough at my vet's office. So not only are you helping out Ivo by reading his stuff, but you're helping the poor and downtrodden mammals of my town.


Anonymous said...

Hello. I just found your site after reading through the internet. The nurse who made the comment about the patient who was going to have an Hemicoporectomy procedure, and about the quality of life afterwards. Maybe she shouldn't be working in the field that she is, and let another more compassionate person take over. It is a choice I myself hope never to make. I don't know if I will ever see a person in that position, I work as a Medical Assistant and an EMT so it's quite possible. Anyway, I just wanted to post my thoughts thanks for being a kind nurse. I would have given you all 5's.

Melbamae said...

I just wanted to say your remarks about what that rehab nurse said were right on the money. No one is half a person, no matter their physical or mental condition.

I've just recently made a new friend online who has had this procedure and apparently has to contend with a whole lot of ignorance. Sounds to me he's making the best of it and getting on with life.

That nurse you mentioned should get out of the profession NOW.

My husband is a double amputee and is the most incredible man I know. I adore him and if anyone said of him what she said of that man .....oooh there would be hell to pay.