Miracle Moments
Will To Live  

MILY SUFFERED A DEVASTATING CAR ACCIDENT in December of 1997. The 19-year-old was brought to the hospital with severe head injuries and after many weeks, her condition failed to improve. Emily’s mother was told that her daughter would more than likely be in a persistent, vegetative state for the rest of her life. When several more months passed and Emily’s condition remained unchanged, the mother was faced with the difficult decision of whether to place her daughter in a nursing home or take her home.

Emily was unable to speak or communicate, but her eyes would open from time to time. It was the only way she responded. She had a tracheotomy and a tube was used to feed her formula.

PullquoteHer mother sensed that Emily would never have wanted to live in this condition. She told Emily’s caregivers that she was going to take her home, gradually stop the tube feedings, and allow her to die. The Hospice team had concerns, and the case was taken before the Ethics Committee. After prayerful consideration, the committee decided that it was medically ethical for the mother to stop Emily’s feedings if that was what she believed her daughter would have wanted.

The young girl was taken home. Over time, she was gradually weaned off food. After about two months, however, her mother noticed a change in Emily’s eye movements. She seemed more responsive. A hospice nurse caring for Emily encouraged the child to let her mother know if she wanted to be awake. The next day, Emily again moved her eyes. The mother knew Emily could understand her. The feedings resumed and Emily gradually became more alert. Finally, her tracheotomy was closed and she could mouth words to prove she was aware of her surroundings. Emily was eventually evaluated for rehabilitation, and thanks to God, discharged from Hospice. Today, she still uses a wheelchair, but has learned to walk with braces. She laughs when I call her the ‘miracle child.’

Rita Mueller, RN
CHRISTUS Spohn Hospice Services
Corpus Christi, Texas