“So – Are You Going to Sue the Hospital?”


I understand why people ask if I’m going to sue. My brother always said, “If you put me in the hospital, they’ll kill me.” And they did.

On the other hand, my brother killed himself. Biff’s choices led directly to his death. I know that.

Yeah, I yelled at the doctor and told him to quit bullshitting me when he said “the procedure” had nothing to do with Biff’s death. And yeah, I flipped out when the anesthesiology firm that “provided the services” that stopped Biff’s heart left a pre-recorded satisfaction survey on his phone. But in the end, I’m just looking for someone to blame other than my dear departed brother.



The Whole Story – Sort Of

I haven’t told you the whole story of Biff’s death, and I may never. Partly to protect his dignity, partly because the six-year story is too long, and partly because it’s ongoing. I’m still processing.

Here are a few posts that give you an idea:



In short, after our mother died six years ago, my brother collapsed mentally, physically, and emotionally. Deep depression, anxiety attacks, and PTSD led to congestive heart failure, and Biff declined treatment. Sadly, his distrust of the medical community – not entirely unfounded – kept him from having the surgery that could have saved his life.

Some days he would admit he had heart failure, some days he would say it was indigestion, some days he would boil up dandelion leaf broth, some days he would take vitamin C. But he would never see a doctor outside of the two times he landed in the hospital.

On his third and final trip to the hospital (a facility which will remain nameless so that THEY don’t sue ME), they told us it was too late for the heart surgery.  As much as Biff would protest my saying it, the doctors were right. Just as they predicted, he was experiencing multiple organ failure due to a faulty heart valve.

But just as Biff predicted, he was dead within days of entering the medical system. When they put him under “light sedation” to do a “simple” endoscopy to see how damaged his liver was, he died. His heart stopped.

What Was the Point?

Why did it matter how damaged his liver was? They had already told us he had weeks or perhaps several months to live. The palliative care “end times” doctor was due to talk to us that very afternoon. I was looking for a nursing home where Biff could receive hospice care.

So why? Did they just want to use their shiny new endoscopy machine? I don’t know. I choose to believe that there was some reason for the test. The cardiologist had said that Biff’s organs were improving: while they weren’t optimistic, they would reevaluate him for surgery. So I’m guessing that’s why they decided to do this risky procedure on a dying man.

Death is Not Simple

So you see? It’s very complicated. It usually is. Part of grief is all the second-guessing, the questioning, the anger, the search for blame. I would like to be through that stage and move on to proper mourning, where I can accept that he is gone and just pound the walls and wail. Unfortunately, the grieving process doesn’t involve a multiple choice menu. You just take it as it comes.

I’m not sure the endoscopy was the smartest thing . . . no, I take that back. It obviously was not, given that pesky old “do-no-harm” Hippocratic oath. Do you sedate a dying man with dangerously low blood pressure who is already on morphine? No, you do not.

But the fact is, he was dying. The hospital facilitated his death, brought on the actual event, but Biff chose the manner of his passing.

He had been in a lot of pain for a long time, and God had mercy on him, given the dreadful scenarios that could have transpired with multiple organ failure. He died in his sleep, after having spent the morning discussing his cat and Shakespeare with his nurses. There are worst fates.

So, no. I’m not going to sue the hospital.

I’m just going to be grateful for every day I’m alive, and I’m going to try to stay clear of hospitals.

I suggest you do the same — that is, unless you have heart failure. Then go to the damn doctor.


What Would You Do with Your One Moment?


My brother writhes on the floor, yells in pain, and then is still as he gasps for breath.

“It hurts, it hurts,” he moans. “Why does it hurt so much?”

His legs and stomach are too swollen for him to get up off the floor where he has fallen.

“Please let me call the rescue squad – they will help you get back up on the couch.” He is too much for me to lift. His legs have no strength to push.

“No, no, they’ll take me away. They won’t let me live here alone like this.”

This is not the time for me to beg for the thousandth time, “Please get the operation; it doesn’t have to be like this.”

And for him to say for the two thousandth time, “The doctors don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not my heart. There’s something wrong with my stomach.”

This is not the time for another fight, not the time for more tears. This is a time to try to get back up on the couch.

What is the right thing to do? I cannot think, cannot decide, cannot help.

He tells me he hasn’t eaten all day. I bring him some mac & cheese and a little water. I wait for him to catch his breath.

We are about to try again, to hoist, to push, to groan, to fail.

Then time stops.

As per the WordPress Daily Challenge: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Miranda the cat has stopped in mid-stride, her head cocked in puzzlement as it has been for the entire seven hours her human has been on the floor struggling and groaning. The clock is stopped at 5 a.m.

Everything is still.

I gently put my hand over my brother’s heart, pray, and heal his mitral valve.

That’s what I would do with my one moment.

A Better Day

A Better Day

What would you do with your one moment of stillness?

Related story: http://outsideinmagazine.com/issue-six/wordstories/late-summer-dream-melanie-lynn-griffin/

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