Book Talk: Caring for a mother at the end

Thu May 12, 2011 5:02am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Sean Manning was about to turn 27 when his mother collapsed with a heart attack and then was diagnosed with cancer, the start of a 13-month hospital odyssey that ended in her death aged just short of 60.

An only child, Sean spent most of that time at her bedside in Ohio, shepherding her through a medical labyrinth to hospice care -- a journey he chronicled in "The Things that Need Doing."

Sean spoke with Reuters about his book, which interweaves his narrative with memories from his childhood.

Q: Why write a book about this time in your life?

A: "I was really doing it to try and get a lot of this stuff out of my head, because I was just thinking about it constantly. Also, I felt that a book of this nature hadn't been written. There are various books that tackle the perspective of grief but they haven't been written from the point of view of a man in his twenties, and I thought that I had something unique to offer in terms of the story itself.

"Also the healthcare debate was just starting to pick up around that time, and from the expenses alone -- having incurred $2.5 million in hospital bills and how insurance took care of all but $3,000 of that, that was something too. Just little things, such as signing a "Do-Not-Resuscitate Order." It's wrong to say they're mundane, but there's just all these practical things that you have to do in a situation like that that go beyond the grief stage.

"I thought that if maybe I could put it in a guidebook almost to help people along the way. Things that I just wasn't prepared for, whether medical or having to get my mom signed up for disability. Things that don't occur to you because you're just so grief-stricken."

Q: It must have been searing to relive it.   Continued...