Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

PEG tubes and Idina Menzel

menzelI walk into a procedure room and upon seeing a somnolent ninety-two year old prepared to have a PEG tube placed, I have the urge to burst into a chorus from the song “Let It Go”.

Yes people, I have found a loose connection between PEG tubes, advance directives, and Idina Menzel, the incredible singer/ actress that launched the above mentioned song into the stratosphere.

First I will fill in for any nonmedical people what a PEG tube is: It is a small rubber hose that a doctor puts in your stomach by first making a small incision on your abdomen. You’ll get liquid feedings, something the same consistency as baby formula, placed through the tube. Yes, you are sedated for the placement. The site on the abdomen is numbed with lidocaine. From there it’s anyone’s ballgame.

There’s risk to sedation. There’s risk to having the endoscope passed down the esophagus.  But…if you have been given power of attorney for an elderly family member, there’s no risk to you. You get to avoid the stress debating whether your family member actually senses hunger.  You get to avoid the discomfort that will return when the sedation wears off. This procedure, in my opinion, only relieves family the anxiety of taking a realistic look at the quality of life of the person lying in that bed.

As hard as it may sound, I’m going to ask you anyway…let it go. Think twice about agreeing to that PEG tube.

Let go of the guilt you feel because you are unable to make things better and are only a witness their last months.

Sit in the hospital or nursing home with them. Talk or read to them. Play pleasing music that makes their eyes open a little wider.

Keep the memories and the love they shared with you.

The guilt, the fear, the self-doubt that your decision to bypass invasive treatments is anything less than a sign of respect for the life they lived and would like to be remembered for —

Let it go.

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