Book Review: Breathe

Breathe: A True Story of Letting Go of My Parents Gracefully For I Will See Them Again By Anne Bland

Reviewed by Mary Ickes



Ms. Bland (a pen name) writes that Breathe is meant to help patients and families gain clarity in decisions that occur at the end of life. Her operative phrase is “… occur at the end of life,” indicating that patients and families should be prepared before then. As a health care professional with years of intensive care unit experience, Ms. Bland has watched many an elderly patient endure needless suffering and loneliness. With touching honesty, she relates the details of her beloved mother’s death as the definitive example of family concern.


When her mother entered the hospital for abdominal surgery, Ms. Bland fully expected her to recover and resume her active life. She advocated for her mother by explaining and assisting with post-surgical treatments, arranged sibling visits, and stayed in her room every night. Even though her mother improved medically, Ms. Bland sensed that the medical care was more than she could endure. When her mother, completely cognizant, demanded “I want it all to stop,” Ms. Bland, as the designated agent for her mother’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, informed the medical team. Though grieving inwardly, Ms. Bland valiantly respected her mother’s directives for a peaceful death.


All too often she has witnessed the opposite, an uninformed family ordering the medical team to do everything. Such a directive Ms. Bland reports “… is often not humane and may not be what their loved one wishes.” As best they can for a patient whose wishes are unknown, the medical team must work with a family that has no idea of what do everything might include concerning medicines, surgeries, and postsurgical care. If treatment fails, should do everything include CPR, IV therapy, artificially administered nutrition, ventilators, and dialysis? With admirable honesty, Ms. Bland writes that a family’s uninformed directive is often torture for the patient. Unfortunately, the full emphasis of Ms. Bland’s message is lessened by the book’s disorder, an editorial oversight. Combining Chapters 1 and 2 would have excluded much repeating. The combined chapter followed by Chapters 10, 11 and 12 would have made the comparisons more pronounced and the possibilities easier to comprehend. After that, the author’s grandmother and greatgrandmother, her husband and daughter, her strong Christian faith, her advocacy for the homeless, her encounter with an ill-prepared young man walking in a blizzard, and the eight objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. Royalties from Breathe will be donated to the first goal: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, an admirable gesture on Ms. Bland’s part.


If, Reading Friends, the comparison of Ms. Bland’s mother’s humane death to the experience of an elder whose family declares do everything does not compel the cognizant elders and sensitive families among you to begin planning NOW, commit Chapters 1, 10,11, and 12 to memory or visit her website.


View from My Catio Buddy, T.C. P.C. (Tuxedo Cat Par Excellence)


Continued from January: The final weight tally of holiday junk mail and paper inserts. Catalogs: same at 10 pounds 14 ounces. Paper inserts: 3 pounds 12 ounces of new arrivals for a total of 36 pounds 3 ounces. Mary thinks that I don’t know, but she is a bit disappointed at not receiving the Williams Sonoma catalog because she’s fascinated by cakes that cost $99.95 and coffee cakes priced at $49.95 before shipping and handling. Not that she ever intends to purchase one, but how in the world…

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker