Why I Don’t Want CPR

By | September 17, 2014

I’m a DNR – as in “Do Not Resuscitate.”

To be honest, the reasons why I don’t want CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) are a mixture of both faith and fear. Faith that whatever happens after this life is really good and fear that those who pound on my chest may be able to restart my heart but may not be able to bring my brain back with it.

Contrary to what you may have seen in the movies and on TV, most of the time, CPR doesn’t end well. In fact, more than 85% of the time. And it’s worse than on those rare occasions when in the movies someone simply dies–much worse.

If you’re young, healthy and if the CPR is performed within minutes of your heart stopping, your chances of recovery for a meaningful life are good. But there’s a lot of “ifs” in that last sentence. And if on the other hand, you’re older and more than a few minutes go by without oxygen getting to your brain, your chances of ever leaving a healthcare institution are really slim, and the decisions your loved ones will have to make are really horrific.

Many patients who have had CPR end up on a ventilator (a mechanical device that forces the body to breathe and move the needed oxygen to vital body parts). All too often, however, the real damage has already been done and the brain can no longer tell the body what to do. So somewhere between 8 and 14 days after an expensive and ventilated stay in an ICU, the doctors will ask your family if they want to have a “trach” and feeding tube inserted into you. You of course are completely sedated because your care providers don’t want you to reflexively yank the very uncomfortable plastic tube out of your throat that is necessary for oxygen flow. Because of fears of infection, the tracheotomy is now needed. It’s a small hole cut into your throat to insert a more permanent tube to force your body to breathe. The feeding tube is necessary to force nutrients into your system. Without these, you will die. So now your family must make the awful decision to “pull the plug” (stop treatment) or go ahead with the “trach” and feeding tube while you are left to linger in this in-between state for only God knows how long. This is the stuff they never show you on the TV shows. And this happens all too frequently in nearly every hospital in the country.

For your loved ones, these decisions are awful. They often feel a lot like the old story of the frog in the kettle. The heat keeps getting turned up slowly until the water is boiling and the frog is cooked. In this case, your family is made to feel like the frog by listening to hourly or daily reports on your progress or lack thereof and then having to decide if you live or die. But you’re not really living—just lying on a bed with machinery making your body do things your brain used to tell it to do when it was working.

Under no circumstances do I want my wife and son to have to make these kinds of decisions so that’s why I’m a DNR. I’ve told them I love them, my life is so much richer for having loved them, but if Jesus comes to take me to that place where the Bible says there is no more suffering, or tears, or crying or pain (see Revelation 21:4) – then under no circumstances try and bring me back. I’ll be just fine, and waiting for them.

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