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"I never thought I would eat a gas station hot dog ..."

I never thought I would eat a gas station hot dog, but that’s what ended up getting me through the day my dad died through MAiD.

We found out a week in advance that he had chosen a date to go ahead with the procedure. During that time, I visited my dad, took my kids to see him, and took him for a drive to see a few things and people he wanted to see one last time. My youngest sister, who lives in another city, came out and we spent some time with him together. The night before he died, I and all of my siblings spent several hours with him laughing and crying and telling stories. One of the upsides of having a family member die through MAiD is that we could take the time to do and say things so many others never get the chance to when they lose a loved one more suddenly.

Despite all that, I woke up the morning of and threw up. One of the downsides of MAiD is that you know exactly when your loved one is going to die, and I found it almost impossible not to count down. I also didn’t have many resources to help me through the process. I live in Alberta, and Alberta Health Services has a very practical, patient-focused FAQ on their website, which didn’t answer any of my questions – how it worked, what to expect, what to say to my kids, and so on. My frantic googling didn’t produce much else. As a result, on that day when we got to the long-term care home my dad was living in, and where the procedure would take place, I was a bit of a wreck. I hadn’t eaten much, and with the procedure planned for 2 p.m. I knew I was going to need to eat something to make it through the day without a giant headache, so I told my sisters to go in and said I would be back shortly.

Luckily, there’s a Tim Horton’s across the street from the facility. Unluckily, it was filled with construction workers working on the new cancer centre and the line was out the door. I didn’t want to wait, so I went to the gas station next door. I didn’t want candy or chips or chocolate, and that’s how I ended up with a hot dog, which actually did the trick and got me through the day (which is not to say that I expect to be adding gas station hot dogs as a regular meal).

It’s funny what we remember from times like this. I remember the time we spent with my dad, how hard it was to take my kids to say goodbye, and that hot dog. And I remember how hard it was not having nearly enough information about the process, the procedure, or what to expect. After it was over, the doctor and nurse from the MAiD program gave us a flyer with some resources on it, which is what led me to Bridge C-14. I joined the Facebook group and found others who had been through the process with their loved ones, and I immediately felt better. I also wished I’d had that resource in advance. I silently cursed our healthcare system for not being better at supporting family members and simultaneously vowed to help others, which is why I’m now involved with this organization to provide peer support.

While each situation is different, there are a few things I’d tell others who are going down this path: it will probably be both hard and beautiful, talking to someone who has been through it will help you feel less alone, and if you find yourself in desperate need of something to eat to get you through the day, fast food from a gas station might just do the trick.

- Robin Farr, Bridge C-14 Member and Volunteer


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