Recently my niece Sammie, a freshman at USC, contracted mononucleosis, better known as “mono.”
Five days after her diagnosis at the campus infirmary, and after taking all of her meds and beginning to feel better, Sammie relapsed and headed back to the clinic with excruciating pain in her throat and difficulty swallowing.
Somehow that form, among the multitude of forms filled out during registration, never made it to USC. Being the organized mom my sister is, she found the original form signed by Sammie, scanned it and sent it over to the infirmary. Now the doctor could fill my sister in on Sammie’s condition.
That was good news, but it didn’t prepare us for the next step in Sammie’s journey.
I should mention that my sister and her husband live 3,000 miles away in Connecticut, and they’d just had 2 feet of snow dumped on them that day.
As it turns out, Sammie’s condition was worse than just mono, so she was sent to Keck Medical Center Emergency Clinic for an evaluation. My sister called and asked me to drive down to be with my niece.
As I write this, I’m sitting with Sammie in the emergency room, where they’re telling us they’re admitting her.
The USC form has no authority at Keck Medical Center, and Sammie is without a healthcare power of attorney. I’m crossing my fingers that, since I am there with her and she is conscious, they will share her medical condition with me, which they do.
After a day of intravenous medication and nutrition, Sammie is no better. They order a CAT scan, which shows an abscess on her tonsil that must be surgically removed immediately.
My sister is trying to get a flight out, but over 6,000 flights had been canceled the day before, and all those travelers needed to be rescheduled first. So, it’s Sammie and me, in this together.
As I am sitting and thinking that soon Sammie will be under anesthesia and unconscious, I again realize she has no healthcare power of attorney.
In the older adult world, it’s one of the things we mention all the time. Everyone should appoint at least one healthcare power of attorney and sometimes more, especially if the person you choose does not live close by.
We also suggest older adults fill out a state-appropriate advance healthcare directive to express your wishes about your care in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this as my niece and nephew went off to college, or why my organized sister had overlooked this important detail.
Sammie had her surgery, came though it well, and other than needing to have her tonsils out in the next few months, she is recovering nicely. I am happy I could be there for her, but I am thinking about her 10-day school trip to China in March.
Sammie needs a healthcare power of attorney executed before that trip.
If this story has inspired you to talk to your child about naming a healthcare power of attorney, that’s great. The website www.caringinfo.org has state-specific advance directives that include a place to name your healthcare powers of attorney.
You may also consider consulting an attorney to draw up these documents for you. Whatever your choice, just do it! Don’t wait for a crisis to develop before acting.