If you believe that terminally ill residents in Minnesota should not have to suffer like Lynn's husband did, add your name here.
Lynn shared her story in January of 2023.
If the option of medical aid in dying had been available to Jeff, it would have given him some much-needed peace. He wouldn’t have had to worry, “Am I going to drown to death? Am I going to feel pain?” Our experience changed how I think about my own death, because no one who is sick and dying should have to go through what Jeff went through. At the end of your life, you have every darn right to say, “Enough is enough.”
I met Jeff in 1978 at The Keyboard, a bar. I saw him come in with my friend Tommy. I walked to the bathroom, I came out, and Tommy came up to me and said, “Lynny, my friend wants to meet you.” Jeff’s first words to me were, “You’re cute.” We were married three years later.
Jeff was a bright, hard worker who loved to hunt and play drums, and could fix anything. He had also been a diabetic since he was 19 years old. When Jeff started retaining water in his legs and ankles in August of 2013, we attributed it to his diabetes. Then, on September 20, he felt a shooting pain down his left arm. I drove Jeff to the hospital, where we learned he had had a heart attack.
Over the next four days in the hospital, Jeff’s heart shut down once again, prompting a “code blue” call. He was revived, and underwent triple bypass surgery the next day. Finally, after a long period of recovery, Jeff was released to go home in mid-October.
Although we were both relieved for Jeff to be out of the hospital, he returned home with a diminished quality of life. He was on oxygen and struggled to breathe. He was in constant physical pain. He experienced neuropathy in his feet and sometimes fell. Half of our dining room table was covered in his medications, which made Jeff disoriented and depressed. He was doing everything he was supposed to get better, including regular physical therapy, but it was just too late.
Jeff and I had many conversations about needless suffering in the months leading up to his death. I had to tell him, “I know you want your life to be over, but I can’t do that for you.” If he had known what the months following his heart attack would bring, he would have preferred to die that September day when his heart stopped.
Instead, he died in the way he most feared.
In November and December, Jeff spent time back in the hospital, plus a stint in the heart rehab facility. On Christmas Eve 2013, Jeff was experiencing shortness of breath, so I called an ambulance to take him to the hospital once again.
At the hospital, the doctors put Jeff on multiple new medications and drained his lungs three times. He had a blood clot that required surgery, including removing an artery.
After Jeff had been in the hospital more than two weeks, I said to one doctor, “When can I take my husband home?” “Maybe Monday,” he replied. Meanwhile, I’m looking at Jeff, thinking, “How in the hell can I take him home in this state?” An hour later, another doctor came by, took a look at Jeff and said, “Your husband’s not going home. You have to prepare for his end of life.”
It was January 10. At this point, Jeff was wearing a breathing tube. He was agitated, shaking his head, his hands going all over the place, slowly turning yellow because his kidneys were failing. He said, “Lynny, please tell them to take this breathing apparatus off.” I talked to the nurse, who talked to the doctor; they removed the breathing tube. Within five minutes, Jeff passed. He was 58 years old.
Jeff wanted to be able to say, “I’m done; enough is enough.” But with no medical aid-in-dying law in Minnesota, he didn’t have that opportunity. Instead, he had no quality of life whatsoever in his last weeks. He was stuck in a hospital bed, living in fear of suffocating to death, of drowning in his own lung fluid. And that’s what happened.
I’ll never get over what happened to my husband. As a born-and-bred Minnesotan, I urge state legislators to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation so that this tragedy isn’t forced on anyone else.