Roy Exum: Is This What You Want?

Monday, November 11, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Tim Bowers was the neighbor almost everybody in America would love to have living next door. When he wasn’t working at his family’s transmission shop in Decatur, Ind., he would be active on the family farm, where everybody pitched in to raise corn and soybeans and laughter. He was an outdoors kind of guy and Saturday before last, when he went deer hunting, he told his wife who is expecting their first child in early spring that he’d likely be home before dark.

But the next time she saw him was in the hospital. Tim had fallen some 15 feet while trying to get onto his tree stand and doctors had discovered he was paralyzed after discovering that his C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were crushed. It was believed he would remain paralyzed, perhaps requiring a breathing device and constant nursing home care, and the prospects of returning to life as he knew it were virtually non-existent.

His sister, an intensive care trauma nurse, knew exactly what he faced and so did his tightly-knit but obviously grieving family. So in a moment of rare precedence, the family asked that Tim be allowed to awaken from his drug-induced coma, that the tube in his throat be removed, so they could ask if he wanted to continue life-saving treatment or … stop all medical intervention.

Understand in the three years Tim and his wife had dated and were married, he had said on numerous times that he had rather die than live in a wheelchair. “He would never be able to give hugs, to hold his baby, to even walk … to have all that stuff taken away would be devastating. We made sure he knew everything so he could make his own decision.”

So when the family asked him if he wanted the throat tube reinserted if he started struggling to survive, he very emphatically shook his head no. When a team of doctors entered the room and asked him the same type of questions, he once again clearly indicated no. So with 75 family and friends saying prayers and softly singing in a nearby waiting area, Tim Bowers died about five hours later at the age of 32.

His sister, who stayed with his wife as the last hours turned into minutes, told a reporter from the Indianapolis Star, “I just remember him saying so many times that he loved us and had such a great life. At one point he said, ‘I’m ready … I’m ready …’” she added, insisting her brother never wavered from his decision to end his life rather than try to endure it.

In the story that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and has caught the attention of medical ethicists all over the world, Dr. Paul Helft explained to the writers that cases where the patient makes such a decision usually involve a catastrophic disease, like Lou Gehrig’s disease, but added, “We give patients autonomy to make all kinds of decisions about themselves. We recognized that it is important that patients have the right of self-determination.”

But another doctor, Arthur Kaplan at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said that many patients don’t want to live during the first days of a tragedy but, after speaking to family members and spiritual advisors, sometimes change their minds. He wonders at what point do you ask the question.

“The issue is: Should you say, ‘Look, let’s try this for a week or two to see if you can adjust and then we’ll take your breathing tube away?’ After a terrible injury or a mutilating accident … everybody is like, ‘I can’t go on.’”

But Kaplan said that since Tim had told his wife on several occasions that he had never wanted to live in a wheelchair, “That’s a big help in this mess. At least you are pretty sure … you’d had the conversation and know his views … he’s consistent.”

Kaplan later told CNN that young people as well as older should have such conversations. “I know it is hard, but talk to your family, talk to your friends. Say to them, ‘This is what I want.’”

I believe every able-bodied American should have a “Living Will” (an advanced life directive) and a viable “Power of Attorney.” Whoever you determine to entrust with your “power of attorney” should know specifically your end-of-live wishes in case of a tragedy. The wonderful purpose of medicine is to keep us alive but today, with high-tech devices and more knowledge than ever before, we should be united in honoring one’s request of “This is what I want.”

And, for the record, I’m strictly a ‘do not resuscitate’  guy. Use no life-sustaining procedures. My family is a peace with my decision because that is what I want.

royexum@aol.com


Policeman: Modern Day "Boogie Man"

As a child I was under the impression that a ghastly, grotesque creature had taken up residence in my bedroom closet, the proverbial “Boogie Man” I suppose.  This is not an uncommon thing among children and most likely to some fault of my own as I subjected myself to some pretty iconic 1980’s horror flicks. There were other kids in the neighborhood that not only claimed to ... (click for more)

Why Ferguson Matters In Chattanooga

The recent verdict in Ferguson has thrown race relations in the spotlight again. It is far too easy to get caught up in the debate as to who was right. But the plain fact is that the community lost, the police force lost and the nation lost. So why does Ferguson matter in Chattanooga? Because a police force mainly composed of whites got into a conflict with a community mainly ... (click for more)

10-Year-Old Boy Seriously Injured In Attack By Pit Bull At His Home In Sale Creek

A 10-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he was attacked by a Pit Bull on Thanksgiving Day morning. At approximately 10:12 a.m. deputies were called to 175 Daugherty Ferry Road regarding  a report of a dog attack on a child.  On arrival the Sale Creek Fire Department found the child on the front porch of the residence.  The child’s father said ... (click for more)

Alecia Driggins Faces Multiple Charges After Robbery And Hit-And-Run In East Ridge

East Ridge Police arrived on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the East Ridge Flea Market at 6725 Ringgold Road in response to a reported pedestrian struck and hit and run incident. Once on the scene, police determined that the incident was actually a robbery. The victim advised police that a white woman claiming to be a police officer grabbed her purse and attempted to flee ... (click for more)

UTC Men Defeat Coastal Carolina,78-67

UTC’s Ronrico White is use to pre-game shoot arounds, but Wednesday’s “almost midnight madness practice” 14 hours prior to tipoff against Coastal Carolina was out of the ordinary but highly effective. “My shooting touch was off (2 for 14 in the last three games) so Coach Wes Long called a shoot around for late last night and we made some adjustments in my technique and it paid ... (click for more)

JOHN HUNT: Still Finding Reasons To Be Grateful

It’s hard to believe that we’re to the final Thursday in November when most folks in the free world celebrate Thanksgiving.   My how time flies when you’re having fun. I used to always enjoy reading Roy Exum’s columns on Thanksgiving  when he took a little time to recognize people and to give thanks for all of the wonderful things in his life. Following his ... (click for more)