Does your family know what your plans are if you can't talk for yourself?

I am lucky.  At 18 years old, I married my dear husband, George. I knew that he had a scary job, fighting fires.  He faced many dangers, just like all of the other brave public servants. George worked in the inter city. He often was on the news and in the newspaper. He even was on the job in the 1980s, when we knew very little about AIDS. When they cared for people, who died from AIDS, they were told to wash up with bleach. Then they got gloves and more training. Once he fell though a floor at a fire. He was injured several times but not too bad.  His knee cap broke in a fall on the job and his shoulder is in bad shape but overall his body held up well. 

My husband is tough. He was a blue baby, because he was born with pulmonary stenosis. George remembers not being able to walk all the way around the house without losing his breath. In 1962, he had open heart surgery at St. Lukes Hospital. At the time they only did one surgery per week.  Additionally, the corrective surgery had improved by the time he had his operation.  Still he worked hard to become a fire fighter. So when I tell you that he is determined to be well you can see that it is really true. 

The only job my husband really wanted was to fight fires.  He wanted it so badly he could taste it. So when Kansas City was hiring a ton of fire fighters in the 1970s he took a chance and was hired. His heart doctors had told him that he was fit enough to fight fires even though he had a long zipper scar on his chest.  I have to say that for most of his life you never would have known that he ever had any heart issues. He loved what he did.  On his days off he had a second job, just like most of the fire fighters. He delivered plumbing supplies ... like water heaters and cast iron tubs.  He worked hard and never complained about his heart. .... until ...

Just over 15 years ago, he got a cough. We really did not think much about it because I had just gotten over my cough. He could not shake it. He could not breath at night. He tried sleeping sitting up ... on the right side ... on the left side ... even with his head hanging over the edge of the water bed! George would stop breathing and then gasp for air. He was keeping me awake. I told him that he had to go to the doctor until he got better. He was driving me crazy.

In January 2001, I called him after court to let him know that I was finished was court and on my way to eat lunch ... it was about 3:00 pm and I was so hungry. My mother-in-law answered his phone. I could not understand what was going on.  She did not ever talk on the cell phone because of her hearing aids. Yet there she was trying to explain that he was in the hospital ... in the ER. I don't know who told me the story but here is the short version:  George was at the doctor's office and the next thing you know the doctor was asking what the protocol was to send George to the ER. The Doctor gave George some nitroglycerin orally and sent him in the ambulance to the nearest hospital. He heart was racing. 

When I got to the hospital I saw our lives flashing before my eyes. The bottom line is that good insurance, the right medicines and my hard-headed husband's determination to live. We also have supportive friends family and co-workers. We did not have a plan for what would happen if George or I could not talk.  

It took me a long time to come to terms with the shock of my dashing fire fighting husband not being able to walk across the room without being short of breath. Now he had greatly improved. He really worked at it. I only the other hand need more work. I got H1N1 and my breathing has gone to hell in hand basket. I have taken my health for granted for a long time. Your life can change in the wink of an eye. 

Do you know what your plan it 


Susan Bratcher
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Owner and Attorney
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