SARASOTA, Fla. - When COVID-19 hits, it can hit hard and fast.
"It seems that people have sudden decompositions with very little warning," said Dr.Joelle Vlahakis, medical director of Supportive Care Services with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
She said it's important to have your health care wishes known. "Being prepared with these documents ahead of time is helpful," said Dr. Vlahakis.
That's often done in a living will, do-not-resuscitate orders, and other legal documents. It's also recommended to have a person designated to speak on your behalf.
COVID-19 has become a game-changer. Some patients go on ventilators with barely a fighting chance, but come out of it alive.
"We just don’t have great ability to predict in whom or who is going to progress into multi-organ failure and have a more difficult course of it,” explained Dr. Randall Schwartz, pulmonologist and critical care intensivist with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Schwartz said that's why it's important to know what lengths you'd want health care professionals to save your life.
"It's not a form that you have to checkboxes," Schwartz explained. "You can write something on a sticky note if you want to that says ‘I don’t want this.' It can be as simple as a few bullet points that say 'I will do everything but I don’t want a feeding tube.'”
It's a scary discussion to have, but one that doctors said should be done. One question to ask is whether you want to let a DNR stop you from getting on a ventilator, if the ventilator could save your life.
"I think it’s a gift that you give your family to try to anticipate medical decisions that will come up and how you feel about them,” said Dr. Vlahakis. “That may change as time marches on as we get better at treating this. I think it’s worthy about some thought to think about the things you would put up with to get better.”
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to email@example.com. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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