"One foot up, one foot down...
...all the way to Londontown," as my former boss, Father Mike Scanlan, TOR, used to say. It falls to me and my wife to pick the day and hour of our good-bye to Naomi. We've done some serious reading, praying and thinking in light of magisterial sources and got good advice from solid Catholics with medical experience. It seems clear that the breathing ventilator alone, in Naomi's particular case, constitutes extraordinary means. If her lungs were the only issue, we'd have her on the vent for as many years as she needed it.
But it's far more complicated and problem-prone than just her lungs. She is on constant antibiotics to stave off infection from renal reflux; (she has fluid backing up from her bladder into her kidneys that will eventually cause a severe infection); she is being fed directly into her unbilicus; and her aorta is being artificially dilated by prostaglandin (PGE) so her lower body can receive its life-giving blood supply. The removal of any one of these measures spells the beginnning of the end.
I keep returning to the intangible existential sufferings no heart monitor can detect: We can't be there 24 hours a day to sing to her, stroke her hair, cradle her in our arms. This is part of the family aspect of the burden, our paltry visits hardly put a dent in her lonely predicament; in fact, they only add to our sorrow. Speaking of sorrow, I'm not the one who carried Naomi beneath my heart for nine months nor did I undergo a C-section to bring her to us....makes me love my wife all the more.
One of the com box readers mentioned the worship we give technology. It's true. Human lives that once were clear-cut candidates for natural death can now be extended indefinitely. But why would you choose that for someone you loved? -- with no reasonable hope for a positive outcome or restoration of health? I recall that Pope John Paul II opted to stay in his apartment rather than begin another round of aggressive hospital interventions.
Please pray that we're able, by God's grace, to do the not-at-all-possible. Which has to be done soon. Very soon.
John Paul the Great,
Abraham, our father in faith, ora pro nobis.