We Need Multiple Samaritans on Our Modern Jericho Roads

This session is available for purchase as a CD and DVD for use by individuals, families, deacons, and congregations to facilitate discussion of end-of-life decision making and ways to be supportive caregivers during times of illness.
Click here for the NOAC 2011 CD/DVD order form.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Curtis W. Dubble was one of the two keynote speakers for the Wednesday morning session at NOAC. He is a retired pastor,having served as a minister for 53 years, and was Annual Conference moderator in 1990.

It was a personal story, but also universal, providing road signs for a landscape without landmarks. When Dr. David E. Fuchs, MD, and Curtis W. Dubble sat down together in comfortable chairs on the stage at Stuart Auditorium, they told the story of Anna Mary Forney Dubble’s journey from heart failure through nursing care and finally to her passing. But they also told the story experienced by many in the audience, and many listened attentively, aware that there’s no telling when they would need the same kind of help.

That explains the title of the morning keynote session: “Unexpected Travels in Healing Call for Multiple Samaritans on Modern Jericho Roads.” You don’t know when you will need help but it will require a lot of unexpected help.

And grace.

Prior to her open heart surgery in 1999, Anna Mary had made her Advance Directive and shared it with her family. She clearly did not want heroic measures to be used to resuscitate her in that as yet unforeseen event, having seen others close to her struggle with loss of identity and impairment.

Her heart surgery involved the replacement of a valve, and after going home from the hospital she ran into complications, including congestive heart failure and a subsequent Code Blue while in intensive care. Her cardiac surgeon ignored her advance directives, to the family’s frustration, and resuscitated her. The result was impaired brain function. Anna Mary slipped into a coma.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
David E. Fuchs, MD, who is the Dubble family docter, joined Curtis Dubble in telling the story of how the Dubble family cared for Curtis’ late wife Anna Mary following a debilitating heart attack.

At this point Dr. Fuchs, who is the Dubble family doctor, as well as medical director of Brethren Village Retirement Community, and a practicing physician in Lancaster, Pa., remarked that many cardiologists are rated according to percentages of patients who survive surgery for at least 30 days. Because of these statistics some are reluctant to follow advanced directives that allow for the patient to die in case of catastrophic circumstances. In this case, the surgeon responded to concerns from the family by replying, in what they perceived was an arrogant fashion, that his job was to save people.

But the Dubble family, in consultation with their church family and their physician, Dr. Fuchs, made the decision. Following a time of prayer, Anna Mary was removed from life support. Two days later a miracle seemed to have occurred, as she opened her eyes and told her doctor she was hungry.

This was just the beginning of a journey filled with love, but also great difficulty. Anna Mary had survived, but with no short-term memory and serious physical difficulties. Over the next four years, she had weeks of physical therapy, leading to eight months of being able to live at home. During that time she was capable of some things, but there was great exhaustion for her husband and caregiver Curtis. She also had a problem of wandering that required alarms in the home.

Eventually she was placed in the nursing care wing of the Brethren retirement center where the couple lived. Fuchs emphasized that although guilt often accompanies the decision to move a loved one into nursing care, it actually is safer, healthier, provides a higher quality of caregiving, and provides relief for the spouse, who is not always exhausted.

Curtis recommended that families who advocate for loved ones in longterm nursing care recognize that confrontation with the staff and expressing anger will not improve the quality of care. Partnership and accommodation are necessary. He also talked about the importance of redesigning what intimacy means for those whose spouses are in nursing care.

As dementia increased so did Anna Mary’s falls and injuries. Ultimately, after Hospice took over her care, the moment came when Curtis said farewell for a final time. A reading from John 14:1-3 (“In my father’s house are many dwelling places…”) reflected the hope and faith that the couple shared with their doctor.

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