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COVID-19 Pandemic: Preparing for Death

Our advance directives and POLST are now hanging on our front door, ready if we need to go to the hospital.

Two COVID-19-related news items converged, causing me to take significant action.

The first was about vocal individuals who believe that we should get back to business as usual. Citing concerns about the economy, President Trump tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Some people told the media that they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy. Texas Lt. Governor Patrick said, “Let’s get back to living,” suggesting that that seniors should “take a chance.” Scott McMillan promoted a more extreme idea stating, “The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive.”

This thinking is short-sighted for many reasons, not least because COVOD-19 spreads rapidly. This pandemic began with one person. Coronovirus wouldn’t just infect some senior shoppers saving the economy; it would spread like wildfire. Further, this virus doesn’t limit itself to seniors; a couple of minors have died from COVID-19. Look at the latest U.S. data, and there is a constant stream of information showing that this virus does not discriminate by age.

The second news item was about hospitals discussing universal do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders for patients with COVID-19. Health care workers, already at high risk of acquiring COVID-19, are at much higher risk when attempting resuscitation. Facing severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) coupled with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitals are discussing whether DNR orders should be in place for all people with COVID-19.

I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on universal DNRs, but I want to share a decision I made based on these two controversies. If I am going to make any sacrifices, it won’t be for the economy; it will be for our health care workers and first responders. As a result, I talked to my husband and kids about my heath care advance directives. I don’t not want to be resuscitated if I succumb to COVID-19.

Here are my reasons:

  • I value life over the economy, so I am staying home.
  • I do not want to infect anyone else, so I am staying home.
  • If we lose more health care workers and first responders, the fragile protection we have will be lost, and we are sunk.
  • I care about humanity, especially those on the front lines (health care workers, first responders, grocers, delivery people, journalists, farm workers, toilet paper providers, truckers, etc.), so I am staying home.
  • However, should I get a critical case of COVID-19, I do not want a frantic code team trying to revive me. Stay nearby, say your prayers, or whatever you do when life has stopped, but above all, stay safe.

So yesterday, my husband and I talked. Our advance directives and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) are now hanging on our front door, so they can be grabbed if we need to go to the hospital. (Most people put them on their refrigerator, but magnets don’t work on our fridge.) Our kids have been notified of our wishes. I have written notes to my loved ones, messages that I hope they don’t need to read during this crisis, telling them how proud I am of them and how much I love them.

I love my life, and I hope to be around a long time. However, I am not afraid of dying. Preparing for death is important to me, and although we can’t control the details surrounding death, we can try to be sensible and make our end-of-life wishes known.

For now, know that I am well, snuggled in at home and grateful that I bought toilet paper before all of this started. Now that I’ve taken care of this death-planning detail, I can place all of my attention on living.

Click here to learn more about advance directives and end-of-life issues.

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Amy Elmore March 27, 2020, 11:11 AM

    Thank you for your thoughts, perspective and keeping it real.

    • Rowena Reinoso April 2, 2020, 1:28 AM

      Dear Mrs. Porter, I cried while reading your post today on HEP mag because just yesterday I had messaged my family that if it required me going to the ICU to survive that they should say no. I live in the Philippines and although I belong to a middle income family our country is poor and it seems the pandemic is still to peak and fighting for space in the ICU is costly. I read articles on medical issues daily as part of my work and advance health care directives are uncommon in our society. I sincerely appreciate your blog post and have shared it with others. May the good Lord bless and keep you safe and healthy.

      • Lucinda Porter April 2, 2020, 1:07 PM

        My turn to cry. Hoping we both make it through this, with our loved ones and our sanity! Thank you for speaking from your heart.

  • Lori J Porter March 27, 2020, 1:00 PM

    What a great post! You are one of the most amazingly giving people I know and I feel so blessed to call you family! You are wise and articulate. Thank you for this!

    • Lucinda Porter March 29, 2020, 5:21 PM

      I feel the same way about you!

  • Eleanor Kenitzer March 27, 2020, 4:41 PM

    Thank you, Lucinda. Yours is a voice of reason in a chaotic time. Stay safe—I value you!

    • Lucinda Porter March 29, 2020, 5:20 PM

      Oh that means the world to me. Thank you! Hope to singing with you and a full choir after Thanksgiving.

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