One of the things I mean to do at some point during this year
of blogging every day is write a series of posts about what it was
like when a close friend suddenly became ill and died, and I ended
up with her health care proxy, power of attorney, and being the
executrix of her will. I felt unprepared for all these roles, and
maybe writing about how I did them will help someone else who has
to do it.
I’ve mentioned this in a couple of posts, but not started
organizing it in any way. So I thought the first step might be to
write about the timeline in which things happened.
- October, 2007
- Bonnie mentions that she’s sleeping about 14 hours a
day. I didn’t think anything about this until much later, but
if anyone else ever tells me something like that, I’ll remember
that it was the first sign that something was really wrong with
- November 11, 2007
- Bonnie tells me that she’s having trouble breathing, as in
getting out of breath when she walks across a room. I urge her
to go to the doctor and have it checked out.
- December 2, 2007
- Bonnie arrives at rehearsal at my place, and sits on the top
of the front steps for a while to recover before going up the
flight of stairs to my apartment. If she had been a child, I
would have called an ambulance for her right then, but she not
only rehearsed, but went on to another meeting after the
- December 3, 2007
- Bonnie has appointment with doctor, who suspects pulmonary
hypertension and schedules tests for a couple of weeks
- December 4, 2007
- Bonnie fails to make a rehearsal (very unusual), and at
about midnight calls to say that she fainted in the bathroom,
has called the ambulance, and can I take care of her cats the
next day. She ends the conversation by saying, “If you don’t
hear from me, assume the worst.”
- December 5, 2007
- What I actually did this day is probably a full post, but
Bonnie called me very early in the morning saying that she was
at the Salem Hospital, had been diagnosed with blood clots in
the lungs, and could I get the cats taken care of and bring her
some stuff from her house.
- December 28, 2007
- Bonnie released from hospital, with a prescription for a
blood thinner and appointments with oncologists.
- January 5, 2008
- I had total hip replacement surgery on January 4, and Bonnie
visited me in the hospital on January 5. This is the last time
I saw her when she wasn’t in a hospital. I was getting a blood
transfusion, so I was probably actually in worse shape than she
was, although that’s debatable. She had stopped at my place and
dealt with the stairs, and then dealt with however many hospital
corriders there were to get to my room, so she looked pretty
- January 7, 2008
- This date is approximate; I was in the hospital and not on
email, so I don’t have a good record. But it was certainly
within a day or two. Bonnie was bleeding from the GI tract, so
she took the cats to the vet to be boarded and checked herself
into the Lahey Clinic hospital in Burlington.
- Some time between the above and January 23
- Bonnie was in the hospital without email, and I hadn’t yet
set up the list for regular updates to her friends, so that’s
why this date is so vague. They decided to treat the blood
clots by installing a filter in a major blood vessel so that
clots that formed in the lower half of her body wouldn’t reach
the heart, lungs, and brain. Almost immediately, the filter
clogged up, so the lower half of her body swelled up and it was
impossible to move her. Essentially she never left her bed
- February 9, 2008
- Several really upset phone calls from Bonnie. The medical
thing that happened apparently was that the cancer had eaten a
hole in her intestine and stuff was leaking out into the
abdominal cavity and causing infection. So they weren’t letting
her eat or drink, and she was pretty scared about the dying
thing. It is about this time that she rewrites her will and her
health care proxy and power of attorney, naming me, with Phyllis
as an alternate.
- February 15, 2008
- They tell Bonnie that she’s about to die, if she doesn’t
have risky surgery to fix her leaky intestine. She asks for the
surgery. This is the last time I talk to her on the phone. She
goes in for the surgery at about 3 PM, and at 10:30 the doctor
calls me to tell me that she came through the surgery, and that
they’ve removed some intestine and fixed the leaks, but that
there’s still a lot of cancer in there.
- February 19, 2008
- The lawyer and I agree that I should take power of
attorney. Bonnie is under heavy sedation and expected to
continue to be unconscious for at least a couple of weeks.
- March 5, 2008
- Bonnie seems conscious and may be trying to talk, but is
- March 12, 2008
- Phyllis and her husband and I meet with Bonnie’s doctor, who
tells us that she has a small number of months to live, and will
never be able to live independantly again. She is clearly able
ot understand what people say to her, but not to talk, or to
move her left side. The oncologists do not consider her a
candidate for further chemotherapy, but if the motion problems
are due to cancer in the brain, they might be able to do
- April 1, 2008
- Bonnie bleeding from GI tract, needs transfusions. The
doctors want to know whether they should do an endoscopy or just
stop the blood thinning medication and hope that works.
- April 4, 2008
- Discussion of hospice care with palliative care doctor and
social worker. Several friends visit and play recorder
ensembles; Bonnie clearly enjoys this. The cats are delivered
to their new permanent home.
- April 11, 2008
- The Cantabile band meets at Bonnie’s room in the Lahey
Clinic and plays for over an hour. Bonnie is clearly enjoying
it, and asks (by gesture) for more several times. This may be
the last time she is really able to react to a group.
- April 15, 2008
- Bonnie moves to hospice. We have a conversation with the
hospice social worker about what she expects. She is quite
alert, and writing very clearly.
- April 19, 2008
- Bonnie is no longer strong enough to write legibly.
- May 3, 2008
- Group of shape note singers come sing for Bonnie. You can
imagine that she’s enjoying it, but she isn’t really responding
- May 9, 2008
- The hospice nurse and I agree to discontinue the tube
- May 18, 2008
- Bonnie dies.
- May 24, 2008
I’ll write another timeline about the executrix and POA stuff.
And of course lots of the above could be expanded. But usually
these posts take me less than an hour, and that was over two hours.