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Sharing coma drama to help raise awareness

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By Fiona Reid
Front
Sharing coma drama to help raise awareness

A CLARENCEFIELD couple have highlighted the importance of having a Power of Attorney in place.

When Bruce Herring suffered a stroke in 2017 which left him in a coma, wife Sheryl was shocked to have no say over his health or financial affairs.

And they are both keen their experience doesn’t happen to others.

Sheryl said: “It was an absolute nightmare; it was really, really stressful.

“Bruce was in a coma, so therefore couldn’t speak for himself. I was surrounded by people who didn’t know Bruce at all, didn’t know what his wishes would be, but I just felt un-listened to and there was nothing I could do about it as I didn’t have Power of Attorney in place.”

The stroke left Bruce critically ill in hospital in Dumfries and Sheryl added: “Bruce was in his 40s, we didn’t think that anything like this was going to happen, we had wills in place and thought that was enough. But in reality, it’s not.

“The will’s just there for after you’ve passed, not for when, say, you’re in hospital, you’re incapacitated, you can’t speak for yourself. It’s the most horrible situation to be in, for anybody.”

The couple have now sorted power of attorneys for both of them and are encouraging others locally to do the same.

They have also shared their experiences in a video which will be promoted on social media and on displays in waiting areas at locations including hospitals.

Reflecting back, Sheryl said: “I had no say whatsoever in any medical decision that was made about Bruce.

“They came and spoke to me, they told me what was going on and that this was needed, and even though at one point I said, ‘That’s not what Bruce would want,” I was told, ‘Unfortunately, that is taken out of your hands because you do not have Power of Attorney and we have to do what we feel is best at the time.

“It was very stressful as well because we both had jobs, I had a house to run, and it was joint, and I couldn’t access any of the funds from Bruce’s account or the joint account to pay for bills because I didn’t have that Power of Attorney in place and I didn’t have Bruce’s permission to take that money – even though, if he was awake, that’s the first thing he would do every month.

“And I ended up getting into financial difficulty because of that.”

Bruce was eventually brought out of his coma after several weeks, and as soon as they were able, the couple put Power of Attorney in place – in case they ever found themselves in the same position.

Bruce said: “I was concerned about Sheryl not having the legal backing to be able to do the things I’d like done for me.”

Sheryl added: “What it now puts in place is, if we have this situation as before where Bruce loses capacity, I am able to be his voice completely. I know Bruce’s wishes, I know Bruce better than any medical profession.

“It’s peace of mind. It’s removed a lot of stress off me.

“No matter how old you are, get this done. You could become incapacitated at any point in your life and unless you have a Power of Attorney you do not have anybody to be your voice.”

Agreeing, Bruce said: “We never know what’s round the corner, but absolutely you have to really take that on board. Anything can happen.

“Of all people, I would never have thought that anything like this would happen to me.”

Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows someone with capacity to name an individual/individuals to make decisions about their wellbeing and finances if they lose capacity for any reason.

Anybody over 16 can look to arrange Power of Attorney for themselves, and can do so via a solicitor. It is then registered by the Office of the Public Guardian, and is recognised by health and care professionals as well as public bodies and financial institutions.

For more information, visit www.mygov.scot/power-of-attorney

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