WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
By Judy Lacy
He (call him Monty) woke one morning feeling very ill, but he didn’t know why. Unfortunately, he waited until the next day to go to the doctor. An exam and electrocardiogram was followed by an emergency trip to a hospital in Guadalajara. This article isn’t about signs of a heart attack. What it is about is what happened next.
Monty’s heart attack had caused catastrophic damage. He was put into a chemically induced coma and the diagnosis was grim; in fact, during the first day in the hospital he went into heart and kidney failure.
During these stress- filled hours, Monty’s significant other (call her Sue) had to deal with this tragedy by herself. First, how to pay for his medical care. He didn’t have any insurance, and had no assets. Although he was a veteran, he couldn’t be moved back to the States. Sue had to give the hospital her personal credit card before they would admit him.
Somehow Monty survived that first night, and the next, and the next. The doctors told her there was little hope he would come out of the coma, but Sue wasn’t legally able to take him off life support even though she knew he wouldn’t want to be a burden on her. Daily charges were mounting and she didn’t know what to do.
After getting over her initial shock, Sue put her grief on hold and contacted the U.S. Consulate and then a Spanish-speaking attorney to help her deal with the hospital issues. Next she contacted the American Legion in Chapala, a great source of information and strength for her.
A week later, the hospital agreed it was time to take Monty off life support. One little hitch: authorization from a family member was necessary. Sue finally located Monty’s only remaining family member. Life support was removed.
She went in to say good-by, thinking this would be the last time she would see him. But he was awake and even though he wasn’t able to talk, he was able to communicate that he would like to go home to die. Now what? She couldn’t take care of him herself, didn’t know the first thing about caring for an invalid.
Enter a knight on a white horse. A hospital bed was rented, supplies were delivered and Monty was brought home by ambulance. The doctor made a house call to review everything with the nurse and Sue got her first good night’s sleep.
Monty passed away the next morning, with his partner in life, Sue, by his side. She had found a way to give him what he wanted most as her parting gift to him.
The moral? Get your stuff in order, now. Below is a short list to get you started. There are many wonderful people in the area to give us a helping hand when we need it, but it is our responsibility to do what needs to be done so we won’t be a burden to anyone:
Submit the appropriate post-life forms to LCS or The American Legion
Talk to an attorney about a will
Prepare a file containing all pertinent information listing next of kin and how to contact them, monthly income and expenses and, health and life insurance information.
Names and phone numbers of friends, doctors, hospitals, and hospice personnel that you can contact for assistance in case of an emergency
Know your spouse/friend/partner’s rights and your financial obligations when checking into a hospital
Know what is required to take someone off life support
You owe it to yourself, and others, to know what you would do if a medical situation occurs.