All too often when talking, thinking or reading about Advanced Directives, the people behind these stories, discussions, debates and often battles are either dying or are already deceased. Most have a negative connotation, associated with disease or accidents.  Whether long term or short the topic is identified with the end of life and dying. BUT, what if we started to look at this differently?

I think we would all prefer to die on our own terms, but wouldn’t you also want to choose how you live? This amazing story is an excellent example, indeed precedent setting, of the first surgery of its kind performed around the globe.

This mother with a young daughter is also a nurse born with cystic fibrosis. Having battled the disease her entire life, she had both the time to prepare and the mental fortitude to ensure her wishes were explicitly clear to her family. She wanted to live, whatever it takes, at all costs. Melissa wanted to be there for her young daughter.

Already in a compromised state, a bout of influenza left Melissa’s body unable to fight. Her organs began to shut down and the doctors made the decision to remove her lungs while they awaited a donor and the ability to perform a double lung transplant. Six days they waited, six days in a medically induced coma until they found a donor that was a match and were able to complete this ground breaking procedure.

We often read articles about a person’s right to die, the ability to do it with dignity and that having an Advanced Directive alleviates the stress for your family and ensures your wishes will be met when facing death. What if we started to look at the importance of having an Advanced Directive that provided equal weight to not only how you choose to die when faced with that impossible situation, but also encourage us to ask questions like, ‘how do you want to live’, ‘what’s important to you in this life’?

This approach allows for easier conversations, a generally more positive attitude towards what can be considered a taboo topic with many people, laying the ground work for more effective and open communication about what you would want when that time comes.

No one knows the prognosis for Melissa. There is a long road to recovery ahead of her, but there is so much assurance in hearing her say “this is EXACTLY what I would have wanted”.

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