Tragically, Joe Hattem knows all too well how important it is to have an
advance directive. Nearly 11 years ago, his wife, Joyce, went in for a
routine MRI with contrast as a follow-up to a previous bout of pneumonia.
Due to a rare and on to the MRI that affected her ability to breathe,
she was rushed from an imaging center to
St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, where she was declared brain dead. After three days, Larry had to make
the difficult decision to remove his 69-year-old wife from life support.
"I looked at her lying in that hospital bed, and I knew what she would
want me to do—so I told everyone we had to let her go,” recalls
83-year-old Larry, a resident of Orange, California. “There was
never a doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing, and it's
because we had talked about it for the last
20 or 30 years.”
The Hattems were married for 45 years and raised two sons.In their early years of marriage, they began taking evening walks through their neighborhood, hand in hand.
What started out as couple’s banter turned into more meaningful
conversations about what they would want in an end-of-life situation.
Knowing how important their wishes were to each other, they documented
it 20 years before they would ever need to refer to it.
“We knew it was on paper, but that, when push came to shove, it was
going to be hard to let the other one go,” says Larry. “Writing
it down was our way of reinforcing to each other that we had a great life,
and we agreed to do the right thing when the time came.”
Larry says he is amazed at the sympathy and compassion caregivers at St.
Joseph Hospital showed his family in those final days with his wife. In
fact, he has since become an advocate for the hospital, talking with other
families throughout the community about end-of-life issues, particularly
around how to have “those difficult conversations.”