The truth is, I don’t know for sure. I can take a pretty educated guess based on years of experience as a registered nurse who worked with critically ill patients. The reason I want to talk about Bobbi Kristina, and tragic cases like hers, isn’t because I don’t believe in miracles. It’s not because I enjoy dwelling on unpleasant things. It’s because her situation is one that any of us is one accident or medical emergency away from — at any time. It’s because Bobbi Kristina — whoever she was, before that fateful day, is not the same now. I truly believe that. I also truly believe that each life has inherent worth and that each person should have a say in determining what the final days, hours and minutes of their lives are like, if they have the opportunity to tell someone. Bobbi Kristina didn’t have that — not many 21-year-old girls speculate that they may be in a situation in a bathtub where their brain is deprived of oxygen for perhaps just a minute, an important minute, too long.
Cissy Houston has gone through things that no woman should have to go through. She buried her daughter, Whitney, and now her granddaughter, all she has left of Whitney, lays motionless on life-saving machines. When she visits, it’s not the Bobbi Kristina she remembers. She has prayed, she has cried. What else can she do? Along with the rest of the family, she draws her own conclusions, tries to make sense of a senseless situation. Physicians have said Bobbi suffers from irreversible brain damage and will never improve. For Gospel singer Cissy Houston, the news is bleak, but she’s a strong woman as she describes her granddaughter’s situation, as she told Entertainment Tonight.
“She’s the same, she’s not progressing at all. She’s not gone yet, but you know, whatever the Lord decides, I’m ready for her … I have nothing to do with that. That’s his job. It’s his territory, you know? And I understand it.”
As Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina’s father, and Bobbi Kristina’s aunt, Pat Houston, were legally appointed as co-guardians of Bobbi Kristina, the decisions become no easier. In fact, they might become harder.
Understand that I know nothing of Bobbi Kristina’s personal history, healthcare, or condition. I only can share what I know of situations similar to hers, as I understand it. Bobby Kristina lays on a special bed, which inflates and deflates at specialized times, hoping to avoid her skin breaking down, but that breakdown may be occurring anyway. Skin tissue becomes soft, then opens, then develops deep sores when patients are in bed for a long time. Staff come in regularly to reposition her, try to turn her from side to side, keep her heels off the bed, to avoid her skin bursting open. She has an artificial airway that is taped in place or secured with a collar. She is frequently “deep suctioned,” a term used when a catheter is inserted deep into a comatose patient’s lungs, in order to stimulate coughing and suction out mucus, hoping to prevent pneumonia. When she is deep suctioned, it’s likely her body heaves upward in resistance to the trauma. If she has seizures, her wrists may be in soft restraints. She’s being fed through artificial means — likely a tube called a gastric feeding tube, that pumps in what looks and smells like baby formula. It looks the same when it comes out. Many patients suffer constant diarrhea. Despite the best endeavors of staff, the rectal area becomes raw and irritated. They slather salve on the area, to have it be soiled immediately after. The process repeats. If it’s incessant, patients may have a tube inserted in their rectum to avoid the skin breakdown, but they frequently need re-inserted and are far from a perfect solution.
Nurses speak to her as they bathe her. The doubt she can hear them, but hope she can. They hope she’ll show a sign of improvement. They turn on the TV, talk about the news. They sing to her as they brush her hair, pry her mouth open to brush her teeth. The fluff pillows and arrange pictures on her tray table so that if she would miraculously wake up, a loving, known face would be the first she sees. They give weary family members a blanket, a cup of coffee, an update. They wish they could offer more hope. They go home each morning with the knowledge that she hasn’t improved. And nobody knows how long this will continue.
Make no mistake, I have no doubt she’s receiving the best care possible. What I’ve described is the best care possible for a person in her medical condition as we understand it to be.
What do you want to happen to you if the unthinkable happens? Have you made a living will? Have you appointed a medical power of attorney who knows your wishes? If you haven’t, please consider it. It may save many people a lot of decisions, and a lot of pain.
[photo by wikidoc.org]