I am committed to changing the way that we “do death” as a society. As an ICU physician, I have an insider’s view of the epidemic of bad deaths, where people are attached to various machinery as their bodies and minds give out. I have spent the past decade using story to advocate for change. Extremis (Netflix), an Oscar-nominated short documentary directed by Dan Krauss, featured my work in the ICU. And my book Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life (Penguin 2017) was filled with stories that moved both lay and medical audiences.
I know a great character when I see one. Bambi was extraordinary - funny, quirky, and brave - even as she lay dying of melanoma. When she invited me in to tell her story, I thought that she would be the perfect character to help people come to terms with-and plan for-death.
But this film had a mind of its own. It took me a couple of years after Bambi’s death before I was emotionally able to dive into the project. In reviewing the footage with Kevin Gordon, I was shocked to realize that the story that needed to be told wasn’t primarily about Bambi. It was about Rick. And all of the people like him who are doing the oft-unrecognized work of caring for loved ones at home.
My hope for this film is that Bambi and Rick’s work will not have been in vain. That it will reach out to all of the many caregivers suffering in silence as they go about doing the work of angels. And that it will help those of us who are not yet in their position, make their jobs a little easier.
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