End-Of-Life Diagnosis: “Failure to Thrive
“B ecause God has not intended for us to just survive” is a line in your publication under Writer Guidelines. When I saw “just survive,” I pondered something I recently learned when a friend sent me news that her sister was close to passing away. She was under the care of Hospice and had been given the diagnosis “Failure to Thrive.” I had not heard this term that pierced my heart like a sharp arrow.
I, of course, went online and quickly learned that it is indeed a diagnosis used for Hospice patients with adult failure to thrive or a debility. Debility is a broad
medical term used to describe someone who is in a state of weakness and often refers to a loss of ability. When in a state of debility, everything seems an effort, and what used to be enjoyable now seems to take too much energy—that is what Google had to say.
I wanted to cry. I tried to imagine who had first coined this phrase that became an actual diagnosis. On death certificates, clear causes of death, such as cancer or a heart attack, fill in the box marked Cause of Death. Now, they are joined with Failure to Thrive.
I began to wonder what must first happen for a person to stop thriving. Perhaps it’s being told you only have a short time to live. Maybe it’s not having close friends or family nearby. Chronic pain will surely wear a body and spirit down to a point of only seeing storm clouds, not the sun that follows behind. There are so many life experiences that rip apart our hearts and cause us to forget that we know the Great Physician who not only heals bodies but repairs the unseen parts of us. I heard a speaker who referred to Jesus’ coming to us when we are without hope as though He is “suturing up a wound that was ripped apart.” What a beautiful picture that paints in my mind. And while there may be permanent scars from the wound, it closes and heals.
When a person fails to thrive, even those who are not ill, it is most likely not because they didn’t have access to food or a home or family, which was true of my friend. She had been a Christian all her life, played the organ at church, and grew up in a home where her father was a pastor. She was close to her sibling and had a loving relationship with her nieces and nephews. Something inside wasn’t fed and eventually caused her to starve. Are we starving? Are we longing to see or be something? The Great Physician stands ready to suture our wounds. And while not every illness will be healed, our hearts and souls can find that sun and hold onto the day when we will see Him and know for certain that His grave is empty and He lives and wants us to live! Gordon Hinckley said, “Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.”
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