A compassionate doctor, a graceful end of life
I am writing to express my profound thanks to Sonoma Valley Hospital emergency room Dr. Lawrence Burchett and staff.
On the evening of Jan. 22, my mother went to the SVH emergency room with severe pain in her abdomen.
My mother was 89, and we had been talking together as a family about the end of life, and particularly the end of her life. She was ready to go. She had “been there and done that,” and wanted to find a grace-filled way to leave this world.
So as we waited in the emergency room, we knew that her last journey was beginning. When it was our turn to be seen, we went back and told mom’s story to the attendants and nurses. They were very concerned about mom’s condition and wanted to do whatever they could to help her.
When Dr. Burchett came in to see us, he looked my mother in the eyes and asked her, “What are we doing here?”
We explained her situation, the symptoms she was having, and she told him that she was ready to go. Dr. Burchett examined my mom and then explained that we had a choice. He could provide care that would try to extend mom’s life, with intravenous fluids, stomach tubes, CT scans, maybe resuscitation paddles. Or he could provide her with comfort care that would take away her pain and nausea, and ease her passing.
My mother was resolute in her desire for just comfort care, fully aware that taking this course would end her life in a short time. Dr. Burchett met my mother exactly where she was, and he did so with integrity and care. He prescribed the medications that would make my mom comfortable, and the ER staff carried out our wishes completely.
We moved to a hospital room around 1:30 a.m. the next morning, and my mother passed with her children by her side a few hours later. She left this life on her terms, fully aware, pain-free, having said her goodbyes, and with her loved ones close.
I am so thankful to Dr. Burchett and the staff at SVH for their commitment to their patients and their patients’ wishes. I know that without them, my family could have had a much less graceful experience.
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Bob Rudorf is a resident of Sonoma.