Monday, March 20, 2006

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST (very serious health / ethical situation)

My friend Stephen Hand, webmaster of Traditional Catholic Reflections, has written the following about his son:

Prayer Request: My son [Jeremy Hand] has fallen into a coma and is in critical condition, I would be very grateful for any who would pray for him, especially at Mass at the Consecration / Elevation. He recently returned to the Church and had the Sacrament of the Sick yesterday. Thank you.

Monday. The next 24-36 hours will be critical if my son, 28, is to avoid being designated "brain dead," or impaired which God forbid. Should he awake, even partially, it will remain to be seen what if any long term damage was done. Thank you for your prayers. He apparently vomited in his sleep, deep into the night after St. Patrick's day dinner with us and other visits with other friends Friday; it went into his lungs, causing a heart attack and depriving his brain of oxygen, causing also pneumonia, kidney failure, etc. His state was not discovered until the next day at 1 PM by my daughter who had stayed over at his apartment for the night. Previously she thought he was just sleeping. When she finally tried to stir him his lips were blue. His kidneys have rebounded somewhat but no improvement yet in the "higher functions of the brain" affecting coma. The question is how long his brain was deprived of oxygen. Needless to say our hearts are broken. He had just returned most sincerely to the Church, and our hearts were warmed Friday when he was the one who asked us to make sure we prayed together before St. Patrick's day supper. Is it possible he had too much alcohol after he left here? Yes. With his other friends we do not know. He only had a Guinness when with us. Some prescription drugs were found in his system. He was not depressed, but had been treated for an anxiety disorder. Quite to the contrary of depression; he spoke in joy about his new girlfriend and his future at work (he is an engineer). - Stephen Hand

* * * * *

I would also appreciate prayers for my father, Graham Armstrong. I've written before how he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. The tumor is growing, and our family has to decide upon treatment soon. Please pray also for his spiritual state. Thank you very much.

* * * * *

Monday, 3-20-06:

A Cry to My Sisters and Brothers for Help

Today my family and I were given heartbreaking news, that my son's cerebral cortex, which controls cognition / thinking, has been damaged beyond human hope due to having been deprived of oxygen "for apparently a long time" sometime between Sat 12:30 AM and 1 PM (an 11.5 hr window). This means, we were told, the "thinking part" of his brain is "gone forever," barring a miracle, and that within 48 hours we should make a decision to take him off artificial life support "and give him peace". We asked for a second opinion and received the same answer, breaking our hearts altogether.

Apparently this morning, at the same time, they began feeding my son liquid nutrition / food through a nasal tuble. When I asked the doctors whether he would die from just the removing him from artificial life support, they told us not necessarily. He would, they said, because of his youth, more likely die first of dehydration and lack of nutrition. This means starvation and filled me with anxiety. We need help here to be morally certain in making a family decision. Is this removing of a nasal tube identical to the situation Terri Schiavo was in? Would this mean "actively killing" my son? Please, if you can find it in your heart to send me a brief, preferably official document, clarifying this for us, I / we would be most grateful. I am very reluctant to remove nourishment for the very same reasons the Schiavo's were. Am I missing something here? Is there some factor which makes the cases different in any essential way? Under what terms, if any, is it allowable, according to the Church, to remove nutritional support once it has been introduced?

Please pray that God's will is done, and for my family. The agony of watching a beloved son in what is being called an irreversible coma, is almost too much to bear. So we cling to the cross. Help us, if you can, to know what His will is in Heaven in regard to all this. Perhaps I should know all this myself, but I feel shamefully in deep confusion. Thank you. Send your replies to and thank you in advance for understanding that I may not be able to reply immediately.

* * * * *

Further Updates:

Tuesday AM: "No good news to report," ICU nurse informed us this AM.

Tuesday PM: We will be informing the hospital that while we approve the removing of all artificial life support sometime after Jeremy's pneumonia has cleared, we cannot ever approve any interruption or removal of a feeding tube which provides for the ordinary maintenance of life (the unity of body and soul). Thank you so very much for the caring of so many who wrote to help us work through these issues. Especially to my sometime sparring partners on the war and some other issues who rushed to help showing what beautiful men and women they are, sisters and brothers in Christ. And especially thank you for your prayers which Jeremy and we still need. I'll try to move on with TCR now as time permits.

Wednesday 10 PM, Jeremy Update: Today, yet a fourth neurologist who examined the latest Cat Scan of Jeremy's cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) gave us a slight first glimmer of some hope. He contradicted the previous doctors who suggested it was all over; this doctor interpreted white matter in the Cat Scan and said "Jeremy's cortex is significantly damaged as you can see in this area. But only because of his youth I think we should give him more time, a couple of months, and see, assuming he lives through this, what his youthfulness does for him." He went on to say, "at this point I can only say that the results could range from the horrific (SH: his word) to maybe what you saw in the girl on TV" (SH: I assume he meant Terri Schiavo?). He was an abrupt no nonsense kind of man who resisted further questions by putting up his hand. "I can't tell you more. He has significant brain swelling. Very few recover significantly from the kind of injuries your son has sustained. But sometimes young people surprise us. He's not an old man with Alzheimers. So we can only wait and see what is left."

My heart leaped within! Possibly grim, certainly mixed, but hopeful news. We'll take whatever he's left with! Catholic moral theologian Dr. Germain Grisez was contacted by Stephen O'Brien, a beautiful soul, and arranged for me to call Dr. Grisez who, along with Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, who tweaked the draft, approved a final revised set of directives for us to guide the medical staff in sensitive matters. Dr. Grisez told us that if Jeremy survives with a feeding tube we might consider taking him home, if we are able and with visiting nurses, after whatever rehab is used to stabilize residual capacity. This was what my wife had been hoping to hear and Dr. Grisez brought it up without my even asking. Human love, the warmth of home, with reasonable care (feeding, suctioning, bathing and caring for natural functions, ensuring against bed sores, etc), can prevail over mere efficiency. So our hearts are set on hope. Where there is life there is hope. A feeding tube, at the very least, can ensure that we hope. Moreover, as so many of you have said, God can do miracles. And, as grace builds on nature, there is as this new neurologist told me, Jeremy's youth.

Today they significantly decreased Jeremy's oxygen dependence and so far he seems to have accepted that well. He has involuntary movements (yawning, lip licking, jerking motions of the arms)

Wednesday 10:45 PM ....Just after writing this I got a call from the hospital saying Jeremy's heart stopped "suddenly for about 30 seconds" after we left the hospital tonight. He was saved by the ICU team. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Thursday PM Update: Jeremy went into several seizures this morning and had to be placed back on full oxygen and on anti-seizure medication. In the morning a feeding tube will be inserted into his stomach in surgey, as well as an implanted intravenous device near the collar bone. Thank you for your continued prayers and Masses for him. I suspect we are in for many ups and downs in the months to come. Right now we are simply praying hard he will survive if it is God's will. He looked so tired and suffering today, though I am told he feels nothing. How I hope so.



dfffffffffg said...

Dear brother, this is pavan kumar from India. my mother suffereing with heart problem & blood infection which gives troubles to heart. I very very very kindly begging you to pray for my mother to get well soon & will be remain with good & best health forever. please

Dave Armstrong said...

Dear Lord, we lift up this dear women and ask you to heal her supernaturally or naturally, if it be Your will.

Ben said...

Amen to that, Dave.