“You wouldn’t let your dog suffer the way I am suffering”
Those were the words my maternal grandfather said to my mum shortly before he died of cancer in 1985. Full circle to 2016 and my mum was saying the same to me. She had been a strong advocate for euthanasia from when she had to watch her father dying by small degrees over weeks and weeks of endless pain.
My mum, Zelda, had emphysema and an irrational fear of hospitals and doctors. I believe this fear stemmed from watching her father go through such horrifying pain and the doctors not being able to put him out of his misery, even though he was begging them to day after day.
On the 15th of August 2016 my mum, not for the first time, sat on the side of her bed thinking about taking her own life. What stopped her was not knowing how to make sure as she said she “did the job properly to leave this mortal coil” without medical assistance to support her. She was terrified that if she didn’t do it properly she would be worse off than she already was.
For my mum her worst nightmare came to pass on 8 September when she couldn’t breathe and I had to call an ambulance. This was to be her one and only trip to hospital during her extended illness and it was weeks and months after the time she had long had enough of existing. If not for the terror of not being able to breathe, due to contracting a chest infection, she would never have allowed me to call an ambulance that night.
Over the next week she deteriorated, both mentally and physically, in the hospital until on the 15th of September she took her last breath. At the end she was only 28 kilos, a skeleton with skin, who finally let go. It breaks my heart all over again to think how long she suffered, how often she had said she wanted to die, how that last month in particular was its own kind of torture for her every day.
From a young age I have been an advocate of euthanasia, seeing my grandfather fade away to nothing set it in my psyche at 15. To then see it in my own mother only reinforced it for me.
No one should have to suffer such physical and mental anguish, we are better than that as a society.
Five months after her death my pain is still raw, but not as raw as it was for her living through her day to day existence.
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