Shirah Vollmer MD

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Archive for October 4th, 2010

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Watching A Loved One Die

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 4, 2010

     Jorge, fifty-five, knows that his wife Roseanne is dying. She has terminal lung cancer; she never smoked. She is also fifty-five, has three grown children from a previous marriage. By Jorge’s report she has loved her life ever since she met him twenty years ago. The doctors, “I love them,” Jorge says, have told them to enjoy the rest of their days-meaning days, weeks or months-no one knows. Jorge does not come to see me because Roseanne is dying. Jorge comes because he suffers from panic attacks; for the last fifteen years Jorge checks in with me once a month to renew his medication. We have not changed the dose in over ten years; we have talked about it many times, but he is so happy with the way things are for him, he does not want to “mess things up”. Now, we talk about how Roseanne is doing; how Jorge and Roseanne are doing. Every month is worse than the month before; it is a slow death. The slowness is a blessing and a curse. Jorge is prepared; he is also tired of seeing Roseanne suffer. I serve as a touchstone; someone who cares, but who is not suffering in the same way as his friends and family do. I think Jorge is going to cope with Roseanne’s demise. I suspect he will be sad, but not guilty. Together, they seem to have created a loving transition from life to death. It is strange to think of feeling privileged in such tragic circumstances; yet, that is how I feel.

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