Monday, December 11, 2017

Why I Have A DNR

I posted something on social media which raised some eyebrows this week. I seem to have a habit of doing that. This time, it was a seven second video of me showing my new Do Not Resuscitate bracelet. In case you haven't seen it, here it is.

My tag line on both Facebook and Instagram was, "Here's something you don't order from Amazon every day." It had just arrived from Amazon. $6.99 with free shipping. It's made of silicone, and is bright red (or maybe orange) so as to be noticeable. There's no point in wearing something like this if it isn't seen.

The reaction to the post was interesting. Many were sad, or just didn't like it. But some were understanding and supportive. Between Facebook and Instagram, that little video starring my bony wrist has been viewed over a thousand times. Given the reaction, I thought I should explain why these are my wishes.

This is very personal information that most people don't air in public. But I must be a faithful witness. I've committed to being as open and transparent about all of this as I can be. I have no problem with the world knowing what my final wishes are. In fact, the more people know, the better, especially where CPR is concerned. That's what I really want to avoid.

This subject came up because of a couple of conversations I had with my hospice nurse, Carolyn. I told her about the "sit down quick" moments I've had at rehearsals, and she asked if I have a contact there. Someone who could call hospice, or maybe 911 for me if I fell and was unresponsive. I didn't, so I talked to a friend about that. As part of that conversation, I mentioned that I have a Do Not Resuscitate order in place. My friend was not sure he could tell an EMT not to revive me, so I asked my nurse about it again at our next appointment this past week. I learned some disturbing facts about CPR from her.

EMTs are trained to look for a DNR (short for Do Not Resuscitate), but many people have taken CPR training who are not medical professionals. Those people are not trained to look for a DNR. If I collapsed on the sidewalk, any stranger could come up and start CPR on me if I'm not breathing and don't have a pulse. If I'm carrying a wallet card with all of my medical information, even including a legal DNR, signed by a doctor, no stranger is required by law to look for that on my person. So many people choose to wear a bracelet or pendant, or even get a tattoo. I chose a bracelet. I just hope it's noticeable enough if I ever need it.

As I mentioned earlier, CPR is only for if you're not breathing and your heart has stopped. In order to do it properly, they have to crush your ribs in order to massage your heart. It's excruciatingly painful, and has a poor record of reviving people, especially terminal cancer patients. A recent study showed that 88% of over 1,000 doctors surveyed have a Do Not Resuscitate as their advance directive.

Let me state this plainly. In case this has escaped anyone's attention, I am terminally ill. I will die from this disease sometime in the next few months. I'm not likely to make it to my 63rd birthday on May 7th. My driver's license expires that day, but my driver's license still has a better expiration date than I do. Witness how fast symptoms have advanced when they weren't supposed to start until Christmas. That being the case, if I am not breathing and have no pulse, I do not want to be revived. If I die, let me die. Don't crush my ribs in a vain effort to bring me back. I don't have that much longer to be here anyway. Let me go home.

I have this, and other wishes for "scope of treatment" laid out in the form pictured at the top of this post. It's been signed by a doctor and laminated, and it's affixed to the side of our refrigerator, where EMTs are trained to look for it. Feel free to click on the picture and read my other choices regarding treatment. I hope and expect that, when the time comes, I will be at home and all of my wishes will be honored. My wife will be here to confirm my DNR. But just in case something happens elsewhere, I wanted something I could wear. Something easy to spot. So I ordered the bracelet, and showed that video of it on social media. And here we are.

I found two comments particularly understanding and affirming. One was by Randy Newman, who simply said, "As a physician, I agree wholeheartedly. I continue to pray for you." Randy also sent me a link to an article that lists the study I referred to earlier.

I also got this one from Cindy Manteris, who said, "Well, here’s the deal as seen from a nurse. When a cancer patient dies - heart stops, breathing stops - you can do CPR for a week and it won’t help. It’s over. So you might as well bypass all that stuff and go out with some grace."

That's why I have a DNR. I want to go out with some grace. No heroic, last-minute measures for me. Even if I were revived, what would you be saving me for? To die in a hospital instead of at home? A few more weeks of life, spent in agony from crushed ribs at the same time as I die from cancer? How cruel the irony would be if cancer never brought me pain, but I died in pain because some misguided person took it upon themselves to try to revive a stranger without checking to see if I have a DNR.

If you are CPR trained, God bless you. I hope you save many lives. Just please check to see if the person in distress has a DNR on them before you start. I understand that there are legalities at play here. From what I understand, the law favors those who administer CPR over those with a DNR. But I also know what's right. It's wrong to perform CPR on someone who is wearing something in plain sight saying not to do so. Let alone someone who went to the trouble and pain of getting a tattoo on their chest to make sure it didn't happen.

I know there are many who, while you are sad to hear me say these things, you know you feel the same way I do. If you don't want CPR to try to revive you if you die, make sure you get an advance directive in place. It's like a living will. You never know when you might need it.

I hope this explains that cryptic video. With my due date fast approaching, it's important to me to get the kind of death I hope for, and not to have my suffering prolonged needlessly. That's why I have a DNR. #waroncancer #bearingwitness


  1. Mark, I just watched the Bethlehemian Rhapsody and found out you exist. It was a jolt to find out so quickly that you are also dying soon. I want to tell you that the song was wonderfully done - who sang it? - and God blessed you with great talent that you put to good use here. He will no doubt say, Well done! I look forward to meeting you on the other side. May Jesus' peace cover you until your release from "this body of death."

    1. Thanks for yor kind words. I sang the group vocals, Greg Jacyszyn sang the lead, and Michael and Denise Cork and my wife and I sang the choir parts.

  2. Thanks Mark. I need to order a bracelet for myself.

  3. Good call. My father, an 89 y.o. retired physician, is in hospital with the same choices specified.

  4. I stand by your choices. Your righteous in your decision and deserve to to go with grace. You have given us such a gift by sharing your journey with us. So hears to you my friend....go in peace, love, and grace. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  5. Mark, I too just "found" you on the internet, and wow, you are incredibly talented. While your cancer saddens me, I am impressed with your blog, and the information you have shared. Discussing the process of dying, and DNRs are topics we tend to shy away from, until it's almost too late. I respect your decision, and thank you for sharing it.