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“At 37 years old, while we were planning the rest of our lives, we were also discussing our end-of-life choices.”

A purple flower droops in a black vase on a brown table.
By Ashley Loehmer

Forest Hills, NY
United States

Being in palliative care, I know the importance of having advanced directives, and mine have been completed for several years. But COVID-19 changed many things for me. Early in the pandemic, I saw many young people die in the ICU despite trying everything. My colleagues saw this, too, and many asked me to witness their own Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) forms. I was heartbroken and scared: Did I just signed my colleagues’ death warrants?

But the weeks went on, and people continued to die — many younger and healthier than I. Despite ventilation, dialysis, antibiotics, pressors, they were all still dying. Nothing was working. And I was the one to call their families to tell them that their loved one was not responding to treatment and we had nothing more to offer except to say, “I'm so very sorry. We tried everything we could.”

Then I hit my breaking point. It was a terrible realization — COVID-19 was a terminal condition for so many. And anyone could be the next victim — including my own family, friends, and colleagues. I sat with my fiancé and showed him my COVID-19 MOLST form. He told me his wishes. It was a sickening feeling knowing that at 37 years old, while we were planning the rest of our lives, we were also discussing our end-of-life choices. We both cried and then I put the form on the fridge, where it remains today.

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