Monday, August 23, 2010

Man in coma for 20 years

After working all day on the case of Joshua (Kulendran Mayandi) in Brampton, I thought that this article might be a way of defining what true love means. This article was published yesterday. It is about the mother of Daniel Lajeunesse who continues to visit her son everyday, even though he has been in coma for 20 years.

The euthanasia lobby will write about the cost of care and ask the question, did Danial want to live this way.

The fact is this is story of a mother who loves her son so much that she continues to care for him.

Is this not a better way to live ones life, rather than killing our vulnerable?

The story by Chelsey Romain, from the Timmins Daily Press follows:
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Mother still visits daily

It's been 20 years since she's heard her son's voice, that day he was supposed to bring back a coffee, but Jeannine Lajeunesse-Beaulne still holds out hope she will hear it again one day.

It was 20 years ago last week that her son Daniel Lajeunesse lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness. But every day his mother visits him on the third floor at Timmins and District Hospital, wondering if she will ever get back the son she lost.

After 20 years of silence, Lajeunesse-Beaulne remembers her shy and timid son as a man who loved to a laugh. He was a fan of hockey and Christmas. At the time of the incident, he was father to three young children, who have since grown into adults.

"I don't want him to be forgotten," Lajeunesse-Beaulne said. "I still see him and touch him and even though he doesn't talk back to me, I know he's alive."

Adding with a laugh she said, "to this day, 20 years later, I tell him I'm still waiting for that cup of coffee."

In all respects, Daniel is a medical miracle, one of few to have lived so long in a coma, and the only one in the Timmins area his mother knows of. Since the beginning, Daniel's family was told to prepare for the worst, because it wasn't likely he would live long, but time and time again he has beat those odds.

Just a couple weeks after the incident that left him in a vegetative state, Lajeunesse-Beaulne said the family was given the option to take Daniel off his life support.

"We brought in all the family members and agreed Danny needed a second chance at life," she said. "He was only 32 at the time."

After three weeks, doctors said there was nothing they could do, and Lajeunesse-Beaulne wanted to take her son home. His life support was removed, with only a feeding tube remaining, but Daniel's heart kept beating, becoming stronger and stronger.

Over the years, Lajeunesse-Beaulne admits she's been accused of being selfish for keeping her son alive, lying in a hospital bed, but she said she doesn't feel its her place to make the decision whether he lives or dies.

"If I take that feeding tube out, I will starve him and I can't find it in my heart to do that," she said. "It's God keeping him alive for one reason or another.

"His heart won't stop beating and until you've experienced the mystery of a coma you'll never know."

The removal of a feeding tube is often controversial, with the most well-known account coming out of Florida in recent years with the story of Terri Schiavo. Schiavo's husband Michael wished to remove the tube, but was opposed by her parents, who said their daughter was conscious.

In Daniel's case, his mother said he does have wake up periods, where he might yawn or stretch and even open his eyes, even though he is blind and paralyzed.

It was at a time when Daniel's children, young at the time, were visiting that she knew her son was still there.

"He would hear their voices and cry," she said. "That's when I realized Dan was still alive and trapped in his own body."

Lajeunesse-Beaulne still goes to visit her son every day. She'll talk to him and joke around or cut his now graying hair.

She said having a son in a coma has never been easy, but over the years it has become easier to deal with. And while there's a glimmer of hope that he will wake one day, reality is quick to sink in.

"It's easier to cope with now, because it's part of my daily life, but it's not easy," she said. "My hope is there and so is my faith, but the more time he's in a coma, the less I think it's going to happen."

Not long after the incident, Daniel was accepted into a coma intervention program in Illinois. It was right after the 30-day assessment Lajeunesse-Beaulne said she was told bluntly to go home and bury her son because he wouldn't be alive much longer.

While there, she had attended a support group, even without having much belief in them, and was eventually asked to speak. She told the group she felt fortunate even though she had lost her son.

"I gave birth to him, I saw his first day of school, I saw him grow up and fall in love, I saw him get married and become a father," she said. "There were children there seven-years-old, 16-years-old in comas and their parents never got to see those stages of their lives.

"I was lucky I lived those 32 years with my son."

Over the years, Lajeunesse-Beaulne and other members of Daniel's family have worked to keep Daniel's life and memories alive. In 1999 they began handing out a trophy in his honour to young hockey teams and players who demonstrated sportsmanship on the ice. On his 50th birthday, a special mass was held to honour him.

While people may not understand her choices, as a mother Lajeunesse-Beaulne just wants people to remember the person Daniel was.

"I ask that everyone who knew Daniel, to stop and remember one moment of happiness, fun, school days, working, anything," she said. "Please stop and remember him and realize how lucky you are that life is treating you well and not passing you by."

Link to the article at: http://www.timminspress.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2724196

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