Thursday, June 18, 2015

A very personal story about friendship

Q on one of his first trips out of the hospital this past March
Just about a year ago, a life long friend and a role model for me since grade school called me and asked me to be his executor and his power of attorney. While our lives have taken very different paths since we first met, we've always kept in touch over the years, so I didn't hesitate to agree as I honestly thought everything was going to be just fine and I knew he would not hesitate to do the same for me.
A year prior, my friend (I will refer to him as "Q"), had told me that his doctor had discovered that he had what he casually described as a blood disorder called MDS. As time went on, I discovered that this was in fact a very serious condition that if left untreated would lead to leukemia and almost certain death.
The treatment prescribed by the team at Princess Margaret Hospital was a bone marrow transplant. Q was 56 years old with two children in university. He had three siblings but none of them were a match. When the time came for the transplant, and a suitable donor was found last August, everything seemed to go very smoothly and routinely. There didn't seem to be any cause for concern. In what seemed like a very short time my friend was discharged and sent home.

About a week later Q was rushed to the emergency department in a state of delirium. I received a frantic call asking if I was the PofA, and if I would consent to heavy sedation and intubation. All of a sudden I was pulled into the medical system and I thought my friend was going to die in intensive care.
Q spent 8 months in the hospital. He lost his hair, his appetite, his mobility and 75 lbs. He also suffered a brain injury as a result of an infection. I found myself totally immersed in a set of circumstances that I was totally unprepared for. Communicating with doctors nurses, physiotherapists, lawyers, family and friends and making decisions on behalf of Q, the role of PofA quickly became a part time job, an emotional roller coaster and a series of complex and quite often difficult decisions and relationships.
On the first of May, 2015 my friend was again discharged. However this time he was in a wheelchair, unable to stand, disoriented and weakened by his 9 month ordeal. Now decisions had to be made about home care, as I was again thrown into another part of the health care system administered by an under funded bureaucratic agency called Community Care Access Centre or CCAC.
While he is making progress and is now cancer free, the road ahead is slow, uncertain and frustrating for Q. He will need to learn to walk again, find his appetite, put some weight back on and learn to live with the effects of his brain injury. For now this requires 24 hour care, and the support of various community based medical and paramedical resources. Through all of this I've learned that being a PofA is a very serious and complicated job that cannot be taken lightly. I've also realized that choosing the right PofA is an equally serious decision that cannot be taken lightly or put off especially as those of us in the boomer generation progress from middle age to old age.
If my story has moved you to consider committing a random act of kindness towards this brave teacher, coach, father and friend, please take a few minutes to look at the video that I put together to chronicle my friend's journey.