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Friday, September 20, 2013

Micah's Story: A Warning for Us All

The other day, I saw this on my Facebook feed:

"My dad passed away today, a terrible and sad story. I want all my family and ... friends to know that I took my dad and I did every possible thing I could to save him. Losing him this way was a horrible tragedy."

This really caught my eye. My brother had introduced me to this woman thinking that we might be cousins. Her maiden name is the same as mine--not an extremely common name. We haven't really compared notes to see if we are yet, but someday soon, we will.

The next day, she shared her story. It is significant. Having just set my husband and I up with Power of Attorney for #1, I feel that it needs to be shared as a warning to all of us. After I read it, I called my dad to see that he has things set up appropriately. It would be awful to see anything remotely similar to this be repeated. 

With Micah's permission, I share her story:

* A warning for all on granting a sole person Power of Attorney*

This is the story of what happened to me and my brothers and sister. It all stemmed from our father granting Power of Attorney to one single individual. It shows the problems with the system of granting POA to one person and how the family members, as a whole, don't get to make ANY decisions in the care for a person who needs help (medical and physical). This is the story of the tragic and difficult fight to try to save my father’s life.

Larry and his grandchildren
On July 13, 2013, Dad’s birthday, the kids and I decided to head up to see him. We stopped, got him a pie, and headed up. While we were there, he was walking around, making jokes, eating his pie, and talking about selling his boat. We stayed only a few hours and then headed home. I knew my Aunt P was coming up and would be there soon for her visit. He seemed ok with no issues. P stayed and visited for 4 days and dad was okay walking around, eating, and talking with her.

I spoke to my dad and his wife a few times in between on the phone for just a couple minutes at a time. I knew my older brother was going up for the weekend to spend time with Dad; I was told they went fishing together.

I then went up myself on Aug 24th for the Corn Fest. I stopped by the house and Dad was complaining of his hip hurting but said he had his ibuprofen and was okay. He then decided to boss me around, talk about the boat and act like he always did with me. Nothing was out of the ordinary 

They said they were planning a fishing trip to Fish Lake the following weekend. I even got confirmation from a co-worker that they did go. He, (my co-worker), said he spoke with my dad's wife, and she said that Larry (Dad) was ill. He spent the majority of the time in the trailer resting. I called, and his wife said he was ill, but there was no major concern. She was pretty vague and didn't go into much detail about it.

I had a sister-in-law heading over for the next weekend, and if there was a problem, she would call, so I didn't call or speak the either of them (my dad or his wife) until Monday, Sept 9th. That day, his wife called me and said he wasn’t doing well and that she was going to take him to Cedar to the hospital. I had been sick all weekend and was still sick at home. I told her that I wasn't able to drive up there, but to please call me when they got there. She did call and said they were running tests and that when they knew more, she would call me back.

She called me that afternoon and said they were still running tests, and they were going to keep him overnight. I said, “Good." She agreed to call in the morning. 

She called Tuesday while I was at the doctor’s office for my illness and said they hadn't found out much, and they were going to continue with more testing. I said ok.

That afternoon she said much of the same. I asked what tests they were running. She mentioned an EKG, a CAT scan, some blood work and that was all she knew at that point. She said the Cedar doctors were thinking about sending him down here to the St. George hospital to see a specialist and possibly a neurologist. I told her that she should do that. We have a great hospital, and I could be close to help and she could go home and rest.

They decided to transport him on Thursday to the hospital. I had missed a lot of work and went in Thursday for half of the day. I went home to lay down and waited for her to call to say they were on their way. She called around 4:30 and said they would be at the rehabilitation center in 20 minutes. I asked her why she was having him brought to a care center and not to the hospital, and she said that he was very tired and needed to rest. I was confused and asked why again. I let it go and waited at the center for him to show up. I was in his room talking to his wife when he showed up from the ambulance transport. 

He looked terrible, he looked like he'd had a stroke! He was incoherent and was not responding to his name. He couldn't move his legs or speak! He looked dehydrated as well. I was in total shock. I wasn't ready for the way he looked at ALL!! I asked her what the test results were, but I never got a real answer from her. She wouldn't answer any of my questions or concerns. I was so worried, but I let it go. I said tomorrow he will go to the hospital, and we will get this all figured out. By then it was 8pm and visiting hours were over.

I had to go to work on Friday. I called his wife that morning and asked when he would be moved to the hospital. She said he wouldn't be, that he didn't want to get poked anymore. I began to yell, "He can’t talk, so how did he say that?!" I asked her what his doctor’s name was I could call him. She said that he didn't have a doctor. She kept throwing around the words "Power of Attorney." I wasn't clear of what that meant nor did I care. I yelled louder that he was very sick and needed to go to the emergency room. I told her that I would call my family doctor and see if he would go over and see him.

I called my doctor's nurse and explained how Dad looked. I told her about the Cedar E.R. and asked her to please ask the doctor to go see him. She was very nice and said she would explain the situation and call me back. I then left work and went to the rehab center. 

I walked in and the wife's son was feeding Dad some soup. I was happy about the soup and asked if he was awake. The son said he would take some soup, but he was not awake or responsive. I told him that we needed to take Dad to the emergency room, and the son agreed. I walked down to the nurses’ station and told them to call the ambulance and to have dad sent to the emergency room. She told me she couldn't without the wife's approval. I said, "Okay," and asked the nurse to call her. I went back down to the room and the nurse came a bit later and said the wife is refusing to give the okay to send him to the E.R. I FLIPPED out!!! I asked why. The nurse said that my dad's wife had Power of Attorney and that is what had to be. I couldn't get any more information after that. It was disheartening, and I was confused.

I told her son to talk to her when she came back to see Dad that day, I left and went back to work. My family doctor called me back a bit after 2pm and said that he reviewed all of Larry’s (my dad) Cedar records and that it was way beyond anything he could do. He said he couldn't help with dad and his recommendation is exactly what the Cedar City hospital’s recommendation was--to send him to the specialist and hospital in St George. I told him thank you. 

I went back to the rehab center after being at work until 8 that night. I asked the nurses all kinds of questions. They didn't know why my dad was there or when a doctor was coming to tell them what to do. I asked for information about his tests and what he was being treated for, but because of HIPAA, they wouldn't give me anything. Because of the Power of Attorney, only his wife could make the decisions.

I came home and cried to my husband. We talked and talked about what to do...Tyler called Adult Protective Services that night. It all felt so wrong. I was sick and felt helpless.

Saturday morning, my children and I drove to watch my son play his first football game of the season. Afterward we went to see dad. He was looking horrible. He was so dehydrated and so far beyond what should have been left untreated. Tyler walked out to the nurses’ station again to ask for more information. I chose not to bring anything up 
with my dad's wife in front of the children.

I had never felt so much anger and hatred in my life. We left because I could see my children having a hard time. I told the wife I would be back at 5pm.

When I came back, I asked the CNA if he had eaten or drunk at lunch or at dinner. She said that the wife said he had but that she could not find the dinner tray. She was looking for it right then. I asked her to please send in the nurse so I could speak to her. It was a good half hour until his nurse came into the room. I told her the story about the last week and begged her to please help me get him to the emergency room. 

She was new for that night and came up with a plan to sway his wife to take him to the E.R. I told her not to mention my name or involvement and that she might get somewhere. She called the wife and explained that Larry was new to her as a patient and that she was worried for his life. He wasn't hydrated or responsive to her and she felt he needed to go to the hospital. 

The nurse came back into dad’s room and said that the wife was livid with her. The wife said that he was NOT to go to the hospital and she was on her way down to the care center. The nurse informed me that the wife was really, really angry with me.

My dad's wife came into the room and began telling me again that she had Power of Attorney, and Dad didn't want to go to the hospital. I was very frank with her and explained that she wasn't doing the right thing, that Dad didn't want to lay in a bed with no food or water or medication before he was to pass. I begged her to take him. I begged her to tell me what was wrong with him, but she said nothing but those same 3 words (Power Of Attorney). She left the room and went to talk to the nurse. I looked at Dad and knew something had to be done, and soon. He was going to die, and I felt deep in my heart that I needed to do something--anything!

I walked out to where the wife and the nurse were conversing. I very loudly said that Dad needed to go to the emergency room and that she was killing him. She smacked me and told me that I was disrespectful and that it was her choice of what to do with Dad. I told her that she needed to let me take care of him and that she needed to go. She smacked me twice more in front of the nurses, CNA's and other patients. I left.

I called my husband from the car and told him we needed to take dad. We made the plan to come back that night after visiting hours and wheel him out. I felt confident that this would be the only way to save his life.

Some of my brothers and sisters were coming the following day from out of town to see dad and talk to the wife, but I knew there was no talking her into anything, even when hearing it from multiple family members. She, in my opinion, had already made up her mind about Dad.

We came back at 9pm and met the nurse halfway down the hall. She spoke with us and said she was so sorry that she couldn't do anything. Her hands were tied legally because of the POWER OF ATTORNEY. She then proceeded to tell me what she thought of the wife and asked if I was hurt earlier from the smackings. I told her I wasn't. She also said the wife was staying the night in Dad's room. I was upset, and we had no choice but to leave.

Sunday, September 15, I didn't go to see dad. I felt defeated and too emotionally drained to fight with the wife and her son about Dad. About 5pm that day, my oldest sister called me and asked how Dad was doing. I told her I hadn't been that day; I wasn't up to fighting with the wife. She said that my older brother had been there all day and that the wife hadn't been there at all. 

I jumped into my car and raced over to the care center. (Now let me explain, when I say race, I was really flying! Law breakin' speed). This was going to be my last and only chance to get dad and take him to the emergency room. I got there and saw my oldest, strongest, most crazy fun brother in tears outside by his motorcycle. He was at a loss. He didn't understand. I told him my plan. He asked me questions about being arrested for kidnapping and legal things. To be honest, I was scared. 

I told my older brother I didn't know what to do. I called my husband at work and asked him what to do. He gave me comfort but no real answer. He said I would know what to do. My older brother and I decided to walk into to the care center and go see dad.

We walked to his room but he wasn't there. We walked to the nurses’ station. The nurse there said they were in the dining room. (Back ground: I worked at this particular facility 15 or so years ago. There is a nursing home side and a rehabilitation side. The rehab side is for broken hips, legs, etc. Individuals are still able to feed themselves, use the restroom, and usually speak for themselves. There are speech therapists there for stoke victims to help them speak clearly. Nurses don’t feed or medicate without doctors’ orders. Dad had no orders that any nurse or nurse's aide would tell me about.)

When I saw my dad at the table, he was hunched over and about to fall out of his wheel chair. The CNA was trying to wake him up. I could hear her saying, “Larry wake up." I looked at her and said it was okay, I would take him back to his room. She said he had been sleeping all through dinner. I told her that was okay, I would take him. I looked at my older brother, and he knew I was going to go through with it.

As we were wheeling Dad out of the dining room, I told my older brother to leave. I told him that I would be the only one to get into trouble. He needed to go home. I could tell he was having mixed feelings, but he kept Dad long enough for me to run and pull my car around. 
He left, and I put Dad into my car and pulled out. 

I called 9-1-1 from my cell and told them that my dad was incoherent, his breathing was raspy, and he was unresponsive. My thinking was that if I called an ambulance, Dad would get into the emergency room faster than if I were to show up. In that case, we would wait in the waiting room for hours. I pulled into the mall parking lot and waited for the ambulance. 

Dispatch had me checking him--holding his head a certain way and counting his breaths. Police were the first to be on seen. Fire trucks and first responders showed up next, I was grateful for the three minutes it took them to show up. The ambulance was next. They got right to work on Dad, and I was never so happy in my whole life!

I want to explain to all of you that I lied to them. I felt this was the only way I could save my dad's life and find out what the matter was with him. I was terrified and relieved at the same time. I lied when they asked where we came from and who his wife was. I wasn’t NOT answering them, but I wasn’t telling them the truth. The police wanted information but I gave old info. I wanted Dad to have as much time with the emergency room and hospital before both the wife and the care center realized he was gone. I stole my dad. I don’t know how illegal that is, but I don’t care either. The ambulance left and I followed. 

I got to the E.R. waiting room and waited to be called back. I was so nervous; I thought cops were going to come take me away….

When I was called back, the doctor and staff were running IV’s (a beautiful sight to me. I was so grateful!) and meds and xrays. They questioned me on Dad's health history. I did my best to give them what they needed. I watched them work and work. I didn’t say anything for about an hour. I asked the doctor for a private conversation and a social worker as soon as possible.

I explained the last week to him. I told him that I was a kidnapper. I told him to run every test possible to find out what the matter with him. He told me that I had done the right thing and probably saved my dad's life. I explained that I might be arrested. He said he wouldn’t let that happen. He went right back to work on my dad. 

I stayed with him until the social worker came in. The social worker and I spoke for a long time. She was told every detail of what I saw, heard, and felt. She let security know that if the wife came she was to be escorted off the property. The social worker asked if there was a DNR or a POA. I lied about the POA and I had no idea about a DNR. I played dumb.( I was already a criminal so who cared, right?!)
I started to feel somewhat hopeful. 

With the saline, his color was coming back, and his face was filling out. He was put on a respirator and his oxygen saturation was back to normal levels! Test results were slow. The only thing I knew was that he was septic. They put medicine into his IV to help.

I will forever and always be grateful to the E.R. doctor and his staff. They worked so hard and so quickly. I will always have a thankful prayer for them. They were amazing and heroic. After a few hours in the emergency room, they send us to the intensive care unit.

The social worker stayed with me but felt she needed to have her boss on board, so she called her in. I had to meet with the ICU doctor, the social worker, and the social worker's boss to explain again what had happened for us to be there. The meeting wasn’t pleasant, but I understood it was necessary. They asked me questions, and once again, I told them that I didn’t want to answer some of them because I didn’t want them calling the wife. They promised they wouldn’t call her.

My husband left work at 9:30 that night and came over to be with me. We waited for any test results or for the doctor to give us any news, but because of HIPAA they gave us nothing but minimal information--things like his fever is down, his breathing is good, and his blood pressure is fine. He was starting to move his legs and hands. His pupils weren’t pin points anymore. He wasn’t responding yet, but I was feeling so confident that he could come back from whatever it was he was fighting!

I overheard 
a phone call the ICU doctor had taken from the emergency room doctor concerning my dad. I only got parts of it, but it sounded like the ER doctor wanted dad transferred back to his care. The intensive care unit doctor said that the legalities were making it so that he could not help dad anymore. I knew right then that the wife knew. It was all coming to an end too soon. She was going to pull rank (Power of Attorney) and stop his care.

At 10:30pm, the social worker and her boss came in and tole me that the wife was on her way. She was beyond angry and had the police coming with her. We were to be escorted from the hospital, and they would call us. I begged them to talk her into leaving him there. I BEGGED! I asked them to do whatever they could. I promised to stay away if she would leave him there to get better. They said they would call us with any news.

Tyler and I went to eat. I was starving. We then headed home for showers and bed. We got a call from the social worker at about 12:30am. She said the wife came and said to unplug him from everything. She was going to press charges against me. She told the doctor and both social workers that when my dad passed, she didn’t care which mortuary they called, and then she LEFT! She LEFT!!!!!! The social worker told me to come back and spend time with my dad. Tyler and I got dressed and went back to the intensive care unit.

Dad looked good, just sick. Bless those ICU nurses! They drug their feet for me. They were “busy” charting and making rounds. They just didn’t have the time to undo everything yet. Five hours they left him there with me. Five glorious hours of me begging him to wake up so he could talk to me and tell me that he wanted to stay in the hospital to get better. We prayed for him, we cried for him. I told Tyler funny stories about him. At about 6am, he was transferred into a patient room with orders for end-of-life comfort only. *Sigh* This meant she, the wife, had granted him a morphine drip in a small saline bag.

Monday, September 16th, I called my attorney at 8am. I explained everything. I told him that there was too much funny business and that I wasn’t on the Power of Attorney as an agent but that my oldest sister was. I hooked the two of them up via phone. They worked quickly to get as much information from the hospital and Dad's lawyer as they could. 

The Power of Attorney that the hospital had was missing four pages of important information. Both my sister and my lawyer were scrambling trying to figure out what was going on. It seems that, according to the paperwork that the wife gave the hospital, my oldest sister had been removed from the Power of Attorney in 2003. The attorney and hospital were hashing out legalities. We filed a motion with the court to take over Dad’s medical Power of Attorney.
We (me, my older brother, my aunt, and my husband) all had a meeting with the hospital administrators and social workers. We asked question after question. None were allowed to be answered. They legally could not. I knew we were losing the battle to save Dad.

We fought with the hospital, they did what they could, but because of the sole Power of Attorney, there was nothing we could do. Their hands were tied. I honestly feel, they would have done everything they could have to save Dad. 
We lost him at 6:00 pm that night. It was devastating.
I wrote this story to help anyone who might be tempted to appoint a sole person as his/her Power of Attorney. Please understand that with that, you MUST write a clause allowing the family to know the status of your medical diagnosis and all other medical information. I had no information and STILL have no information about my dad’s illness or cause of death. If I knew what had made him sick or how to help, or how NOT to have helped, I believe things would have ended differently. 

Larry and his grandson
I’m sad. I’m confused, and I need some peace. Our family needs closure. I pray you read this and realize that just some simple wording on a document can make a huge impact on your life and the lives of those who love you. Keep your family in mind. I have not written this to blame anyone, only in hopes of educating someone who might need it.

--Micah Hamm Whitehead

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