“I just want to make things right.”
That was what my patient told me not too long ago. Wanting to make things right. Don’t we all? Here is his story.
He was in his 50’s, and he presented to the hospital with leg swelling and worsening shortness of breath. After initial work-up in the Emergency Room, he was diagnosed with blood clots in the legs and lungs (veno-thromboembolism). Serious condition.
His chest CT scan also showed a lung mass. After further work-up, which includes a biopsy, it was found to be cancer. Cancer in itself is a risk for developing blood clots. Bad prognosis.
After further more work-up, it was determined that the lung cancer was far advanced. It has spread to the bones, liver, and lymph nodes. Grim outlook.
During his hospital stay, his condition deteriorated and was transferred to the ICU.
I approached him as he laid in his ICU bed. Knowing the severity of his condition, I asked him about his “code status.” That is, what he wants us to do if in case he cannot breathe on his own, does he wants us to place a tube down his throat and have a machine breathe for him? Or if his heart stops, does he want us to shock his heart or pound on his chest and try to resuscitate him? Or, does he just want us to let him go peacefully?
There was a long pause before he replied, as he breathed heavily under the oxygen mask. “I want everything done,” he finally answered. “I want everything done, until I have done one thing. I want to get married.”
Get married? Did I hear him right? Is he of a sound mind or is he confused and hallucinating?
As he continued talking, I ascertained that he was very alert and not confused at all. I did not ask why he wanted to get married, but he explained to me the reason why. Perhaps he saw the quizzical look on my face.
“I just want to make things right,” was his reason. Apparently, he was living-in with his girlfriend for twelve long years. He wanted to make their union legal. This would make her girlfriend the legal decision-maker for him if he becomes incompetent. And she would also inherit his estate without questions, when he dies. But more so, he just wanted to show her how he loved her over the years, but did not quite made it to the altar. Now, he was “making things right.”
Two days later, there was a wedding ceremony in our ICU room. A bride, a groom, a chaplain, and a couple of witnesses. That was all you need for a wedding. Of course there was a gown too. No, not a wedding gown. A patient’s hospital gown. And it was the groom who wore it.
There was many well-wishers too, courtesy of the ICU staff.
The patient’s son was also present. I believe he was his son from a previous relationship, and he came from out-of-state to visit his very ill father. He was probably expecting to attend a funeral, but was surprised that he was attending a wedding instead.
A few days after the wedding, our patient’s condition improved that he was able to be transferred out of the ICU to the Oncology floor. Perhaps, getting married gave him hope and a different outlook in life, and willed himself to get better.
He was started on combined regimen of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hope springs eternal.
Two weeks later, his condition started to decline once more. He grew weaker and weaker. It became more and more difficult for him to breathe. This time, he told us, he does not want to be resuscitated if his heart stops or if he cannot breathe on his own. I guess, he already accomplished his one wish, and now he was ready.
Then one day, he quietly faded in the break of dawn. And he left a newly wed bride, a widow.
Cancer stumps hope. A so familiar scenario, sadly to say.
Yet love conquers all.