Today I discharged Dr. Matthews from the hospital. He was admitted with a viral infection which had settled in his lungs.
Dr. Matthews worked as an ER physician for a long period of time and had retired when the joints in his legs gave up and he couldn’t stand long hours. In the last ten years of his life, he was diagnosed with Heart failure, Diabetes, Spinal Stenosis, and Osteoarthritis – the diseases of old age.
Dr. Matthews came to the hospital with a viral infection causing his heart to fail and fluid to build up in his lungs. His heart rhythm decided to get erratic – again a sign of aging heart which made the heart failure worse.
He became progressively weak. His mobility decreased and his arthritis worsened. His muscles failed to remember how to swallow food and he started aspirating on thin liquids. Knowing all that was in front of him, Dr. Matthews made a decision to get a feeding tube. He became confined to his bed and wheelchair. Today at the time of his discharge, he was a bundle of flesh, weak legs, protuberant belly, a tube coming out of his stomach and another tube supplying him with oxygen to keep him alive.
In spite of it all, Dr. Matthews stayed sharp as a whip. He managed his care, his diuretic dose, his feeding schedule, and his laxative dosing. He had fights with the providers, he expressed frustration, anger and fear. But finally, the body gave up, the fierce will to survive has vanished. The body seems to be taking over the mind. Its the triumph of a dying body over a sharp mind.