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Family of hit and run victim and local doctors give perspective on life support

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 9:08 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In January 2020, WCTV brought you the heartbreaking story of a fatal hit and run on North Monroe Street.

Jeremiah Bruce, 26, was left in critical condition after the crash in Tallahassee.

Bruce spent days unresponsive at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. His parents were faced with the difficult choice of whether or not to take him off life support.

During an interview just two days after Jeremiah’s death, his mother, Mary Madison, cried, “It is just so hard, it is just so hard...”

Emotions are still fresh for Madison, and Jeremiah’s father, Michael Bruce, months after facing the unimaginable.

Madison says during those long days, she was advised there was no hope of recovery for their son.

“Because they felt like he did not have a chance, and I told them that was my child,” said Madison.

“We just stayed prayerful,” Bruce said. “Hoping that some kind of miracle would happen, that Jeremiah would open his eyes and respond to everything that was going on.”

Jeremiah’s medical reports obtained from Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare show the hit and run left him with lung damage, kidney failure, a broken pelvis and legs and multiple facial fractures.

After eight days of tests, doctors came to the conclusion that there was no brain activity.

But Mary and Michael were not ready to give up.

“As parents, you do not want to just make a decision saying you want to take a child off life support without knowing if they can still survive,” said Bruce.

Dr. Niharika Suchak, a geriatric physician, says there is no rigid timeline for taking a patient off life support.

“We would generally not say that the number of rule is x number of hours, days, weeks or months,” said Dr. Suchak, “It is dependent upon the patient and their clinical situation, and the prognosis, which is the predicted likelihood of the natural course of that condition over time.”

Dr. Suchak says a team of medical professionals will do everything they can to help patients recover, before advising to end life support.

The ultimate decision is up to the person designated as a patient’s power of attorney, and if no one has been designated, the choice falls to the family.

“We as doctors sometimes may calculate the immediate response or benefit to treatment in certain numbers or critical values or in medical jargon or a very clinical manner,” says Dr. Suchak. “Versus a person as a human being could base it on their personal experiences.”

Having worked for 30 years as a clinical practitioner, Dr. Mary Simmons knew firsthand about life and death decisions. But in Oct. 2018, after her mother had a stroke, she saw it from a new perspective.

“I knew my medical self and I kept telling the doctors ‘I get it, you guys know I get it,’ but then it was ‘Well this is my mom’ kicked in,” Simmons says. “So, I was pulled into that same room, ‘Hey there is nothing else we can do.’”

In most life support cases, the one thing families typically have is time. Dr. Simmons says utilize that and plan ahead by making your wishes known.

She says it could provide your loved ones peace of mind if they are faced with the decision.

“It is a hurtful, painful thing to talk about, but if we can say that upfront, their wishes, you know I wish to be placed or not, go ahead and put it in writing,” says Dr. Simmons. “Go ahead and designate your P-O-A, get your living will, so that these things can be spelled out and it takes less stress off the family.”

Jeremiah’s parents are now faced with an unbearable loss but are grateful that he died before life support was removed. Bruce says it saved them from making such a difficult choice.

“Me and his mother was like, we are not going to give up on him,” Bruce says.

Dr. Suchak advises families to do their research, so if that moment comes, you can make an informed and smart decision, knowing all of your options.

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