Don’s journey: My fast-approaching end

Personal Stories | April 20, 2018 | Don Kent

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A photo of a car race

In January, Ottawa’s Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part six of Don’s Journey.

Feb. 21, 2018

While in the hospital, I made several requests to be referred to the medical assistance in dying (MAID) team. These requests commenced about three weeks ago but have yet to yield any results. Silence.

Yesterday, my case coordinator at the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) called with the good news: there is a local palliative care doctor who handles MAID cases. And, she will provide home visitations! It would be great to die at home rather than the sterile environment of a hospital. My case coordinator indicated that she would contact my GP and request a referral to the local doctor. Progress!

I met with my ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor and speech pathologist today. He pulled a few of the stitches from my neck incisions, and then inspected and packed my chest incision. Over the past few days, a couple of sections opened and started seeping profusely. My ENT packed one with a lengthy piece of packing. He didn’t seem overly concerned with the wound so I will hope that it heals soon. He did scope my trachea and indicated that it is fairly clear; I guess that the extra humidity is having the desired results in preventing plug formation.

A caricature of Don and his wife, Barb, in Florida with their pets

Don’s nephew commissioned this caricature drawing of Don and his wife, Barb. The drawing depicts the couple’s annual travels to Florida, their pets, and Don’s love of Nascar.

Mar. 4, 2018

Another thrilling visit to The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) emergency room — this time to have my surgical wounds inspected to ensure they’re not becoming infected. The upper part of the free flap incision had opened yesterday and leaked profusely. The pus was yellow with perhaps a hint of green so the CCAC nurse doing the wound care was quite insistent that we go the hospital. The ER doctor took a culture but was not concerned. She did have me resume antibiotics so at least we’ll be able to use all the Clavulin we purchased a few weeks ago.

We received our updated wills and power of attorneys in the last few days so that is one more major task completed. I also completed our 2017 tax returns although we still need to review them before I submit them online. I documented the process so it should be relatively easy for Barb to provide the required information to an accountant to handle the taxes once I’m gone. I imagine that next year’s will be somewhat more complicated since it will include the closing of my estate.

Mar. 5, 2018

The local palliative care doctor visited this afternoon and she will start the MAID process. Two doctors must provide an assessment to verify eligibility for MAID. She will provide one, and afterwards, she will request that my GP provide the other. If my GP is not comfortable doing that, she will have one of her associates perform an independent assessment. The palliative care doctor has indicated that there should be no issue with my eligibility given my terminal diagnosis. She seemed very supportive and caring, and will help me manage my symptoms (pain, depression, etc.). She reviewed the process and indicated that having the procedure done at home would not present a problem.

Once the application has been approved, I can delay the final date indefinitely until I want to set a date. The doctor will require a few days’ notice to have the drugs shipped from Ottawa and to make sure a nurse practitioner is available to help administer the drugs and set intravenous lines. I will also need to give my sisters some advance notice in case they would like to join me. They will have to fly in from the United States and will be crucial in providing support for my mom. My poor mom lost my older brother in November 2016 and now I will die shortly. It seems that the Kent boys were only destined to live 57 years. I am so relieved that the MAID process has finally begun.

Mar. 7, 2018

I have been corresponding via email with Joanne Schnurr of CTV Ottawa and various representatives from Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC). CTV Ottawa would like to interview me to discuss my blog series and my MAID journey. They also requested that we include the CCAC nurse providing the wound home care, and today’s nurse reluctantly agreed to being filmed. I will need to clear this with my CCAC case coordinator. Susan Desjardins, the head of DWDC’s Ottawa chapter, has also agreed to attend the interview. Both the MAID process in Ontario and DWDC should get some good exposure through this medium. The interview has been set for next Tuesday, March 13.

My mom was just admitted to TOH with a pulmonary embolism and heart arrhythmia. She will have to spend several days there while they try to dissolve the clot. My sister, Kimberley, will fly in Saturday to help look after her. More health fun in the Kent family.

And, I just learned that my tennis partner, Penny has died. Her memorial is on Saturday.

A photo of Don at the beach in Florida

Don on one of his trips to Florida.

Mar. 8, 2018

We visited mom briefly last night in the ER and will visit her again shortly this afternoon. I also have an appointment with one of my doctors this afternoon to have him check the wound healing. I’m getting really tired of visiting the hospital.

Mar. 13, 2018

We have just concluded the interview with CTV Ottawa and DWDC. The segment on MAID will air tonight.

We are heading back to the ER this afternoon. The CCAC nurse felt that my neck wound was showing some significant purple discolouration which is worrisome. She felt it was an indication that the wound was not receiving proper blood flow and oxygenation. As well, I have had a fever for the past couple of days. Today it was measured at 38.4°C which is just slightly high. They will likely put me on intravenous antibiotics. My ENT doctor is away for the week and left an order to implement this if I had an escalation of the infection. Hopefully they can get this mending soon. It has been painful and itchy for quite a while now.

The second palliative care doctor is visiting tomorrow to do the second assessment so that will be one more obstacle to MAID out of the way. At that point, we can get the formal application submitted and then we will just have to get through the 10-day waiting period, as required by the federal assisted dying law.

Mar. 21, 2018

We met with my ENT today. He broached the subject of alternative accommodations for me as the nursing/care load becomes excessive for Barb to handle. He also cautioned that my surgical wounds may never heal properly, both due to past radiation and the underlying active cancer. My response was that hopefully I’d choose MAID before requiring full-time nursing care.

We did meet with the second palliative care doctor last week. She indicated that there was no issue with her assessment and that my application for MAID could proceed. One more obstacle out of the way.

My journey towards MAID seems to be moving quite quickly now.

Dying With Dignity Canada is beyond grateful to Don Kent for inviting us to join him on his journey. We are honoured to help Don share his invaluable insights with all Canadians interested in learning more about the assisted dying process and how they, too, can take control of their dying process.

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