Mike Robinson shared his story in February of 2023.
A year or so ago, I took part in an online seminar about death and dying, hosted by the Renaissance Society of Sacramento. During the seminar, I learned about Compassion & Choices and the option of medical aid in dying in California. I was grateful to find out that this was potentially an option for me.
For over two decades now, I've been living with heart issues, and have had numerous hospitalizations for procedures like stents, bypasses, and valve replacements. Last year, after experiencing chest pain, I underwent a procedure to have five new stents placed. My doctors also recommended I return for open-heart surgery. However, the stent procedure was harder on me than it had been in the past, and I realized that I was no longer able to tolerate such grueling treatments. The risk of open-heart surgery was too high. I declined any further procedures and my health has been declining quite rapidly ever since.
I am incredibly grateful for the fairly high-quality life I've had so far, thanks to medical interventions. I still find a lot of joy in life, despite the limitations I now face. I may not be able to do as much as I used to, but I still love life and want to make the most of it. I love seeing my grandson, whose little league games I immensely enjoy watching. He has a birthday coming up and family will get together to celebrate. My son and grandson come over often, and we watch football together. This weekend, my son who lives nearby will come over to watch the super bowl together. Though we’re big San Francisco 49ers fans, we’re still excited to see the Kansas City Chiefs play the Philadelphia Eagles.
I have been extremely fortunate. However, my heart disease has advanced to the point where I am on the brink of terminal heart failure. I am constantly fatigued, I sleep a lot, and I struggle with chest pain, lightheadedness, lung congestion, and shortness of breath. My appetite has diminished and I have lost 10 pounds in the last eight months.
Last October, I spoke to my primary care physician about my end-of-life priorities and whether she would be willing to support me in seeking medical aid in dying. She told me that her hospital network doesn’t participate, but she was willing to refer me to an affiliated hospice organization, which does have a policy that allows doctors to prescribe under California’s End of Life Option Act. I was evaluated by the hospice in November, but was told that I didn't yet meet the criteria for hospice or medical aid in dying, which both require a prognosis of six months or less.
I understand that predicting mortality in heart failure cases can be problematic at best, but I still wanted to take action to be prepared for the end of my life while I still have the ability. My goal is to have a gentle way out when my time comes, not because I'm ready to die, but to have peace of mind.
Unfortunately, I've hit a roadblock in finding a physician who will prescribe me a medical aid-in-dying prescription. It can be a challenging journey for those of us who are terminally ill, especially those of us who are going through it alone. Although I have the support of my family, I live alone and value my independence greatly. Maintaining my independence until my last day is one of the factors in my decision to pursue an aid-in-dying prescription. If I can’t take care of myself, I don’t want to be around. To me, it's more about the quality of life than the quantity. All of us deserve the option to not have to suffer.