Thursday, December 2, 2021

Duke Doctor Helps Families Prepare for Death

— Death is not a topic people often enjoy talking about, but with medical advances people are living longer and conversations about the end of life are becoming more critical.

After meeting families dealing with end-of-life issues, Dr. Haider Warraich, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center, decided to explore the issue.

He wrote a book titled, “Modern Death” aimed at helping families navigate the path.

“No one wants to talk about death under almost any circumstance,” Warriach said. “Everyone will have their own definition of what they consider is a good passing.”

The family of 47-year-old Greg Sousa understands how tough the path can be.

For four years, Sousa lived with malignant brain tumors. He survived three surgeries, a biopsy and cancer treatment. He thrived working, parenting and raising money for research through athletic endeavors.

“We hadn’t talked about end of life that much because he, and the treatment team, and us, really felt like he had a long time to live,” said Sousa’s wife, Sara Sousa.

A few months before his death in July 2016, Greg Sousa got bad news.

“When our team came in and said, ‘We don’t have any more tools,’ we knew what that meant,” Sara Sousa said.

Medical advances allow people to live longer, which also means people are dying longer. Often, people do not know how they want to die until they are in a medical crisis.

“So, I think the key really is for people to be having these conversations early on, not in the hospital, but when they are at home, with their loved ones, in their communities,” Warraich said.

Greg Sousa spent his last days traveling to visit family until he needed hospice. And when he couldn’t speak, Sara spoke for him and followed his wishes.

“We weren’t ready at all,” Sara Sousa said. “…those last few days in hospice were very meaningful.”

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