When I was 14 — a freshman in high school — our parish church used to host “CYO” events. That’s Catholic Youth Organization. There was catechism and then a movie, dance, party of some sort. I met an “older man” of 18 at the CYO events. His name was Mike Scholl and we remained friends over the 50+ years since that initial meeting. This past weekend, Mike didn’t know show up to play pool with some of the men. One of them called Mike’s home several times. There was no answer. Tom decided to worry. On Sunday, he drove to Mike’s home, saw Mike’s truck in the drive, but Mike did not answer his door. Like many of us, Mike lives alone. His home was in an area that has a facilities manager so Tom went to the management office. The manager had the key to the house. Mike was on the bedroom floor unconscious. An ambulance took him to University Hospital and he dies there today.
My name and number were on the folder that the manager had in his file. So, I was contacted. I knew Mike had two adopted daughters. He and their mother had divorced in the early ’80s and he’s had no contact with them since the divorce. Another of Mike’s friends who is a computer whiz, was let into Mike’s home on Monday. He went through Mike’s computer and cell phone trying to find a link to one of the daughters. He scoured FaceBook and found her. He also found that she was a nurse at a small hospital in Texas. He called the hospital, but she no longer worked there. He messaged her on Facebook but she never responded. Yesterday our hospital decided someone needed to do something for Mike. He had not prepared an Advance Health Care Directive. The doctors determined that he was brain dead; he was being kept alive on life support. Mike’s other friends and I know Mike would not want that.
I signed an Acknowledgement of Assumption of Authority for Health Care Decisions. Last evening, one friend (who is a hospice consultant) and I went to the hospital and I authorized the doctors to remove Mike from life support. We sat with him for a few hours. His body was more relaxed once all the equipment had been removed. The nurse set up a morphine drip to keep his lungs relaxed so his body did not become “air hungry”. This morning at 7:00, Mike was still breathing on his own though totally non-responsive. He passed away at 9:30. The doctors determined he suffered a stroke, then had a heart attack. He also had metastasized cancer. He was so darned stubborn — would not go to the doctor — wouldn’t ask for help, though he gave help out to anyone that needed it.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it is not fair to ask a friend or a family member to make an end of life decision for you. If you prepare an Advance Health Care Directive, people about whom you care will not be forced to decide whether you live or die. I have done this once before for my mother when I was 19 years old and she was dying of cancer. I do not ever want to make this choice for another person (other than myself) again. The Advanced Directive form is easy to complete. If any of you want a copy, I will email it to you — please, just ask me.
Rest in peace, Mike Scholl. My friend, I loved you for 52 years.