Helen Kagin, my wife, and co-founder of Camp Quest, was pronounced dead at 6:55 pm. today, Wednesday, February 17, 2010, at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Helen underwent surgery for lung cancer on January 7, 2010 and never left the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In conformity with her Living Will, and the opinions expressed to us by six physicians who strongly concurred, her daughter Caroline Good and I agreed that dialysis not be started when she went into renal failure. Helen had been on oxygen for some time, her lungs leaked air, she had developed fungal pneumonia, and systemic sepsis, her body had stopped making red blood cells, and she had suffered multiple systems failures that were incompatible with life. She had been unconscious for days. I know for a certainty that if she had decision making capacity, Helen would not have wanted to live on a ventilator and dialysis. Surrounded by family members, the ventilator was withdrawn and the life force that had been Helen departed within minutes. And she was dead.
Helen was born Helen McGregor Smith in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on January 31, 1934. She attended Medical school at the University of Saskatchewan and came to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio as an Intern. She did her residence there, was employed as an anaesthesiologist there, worked there until she retired, and she died there today. She was 76 years old. We celebrated her 76th Birthday in the ICU, but we do not know if she was aware of the signs, the cards, and the well wishers.
Helen was an accomplished athlete. She was a figure skater, an ice dancer, a hockey player, a softball player, a swimmer, a fencer, and a superb human being. She loved the Winter Olympics, and it is fitting indeed that she died during the Winter Olympics now being held in Canada.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Today is also the anniversary of the death of Freethought hero Giordano Bruno in 1600. Helen never did Ash Wednesday, and her death was far more gentle than that of Bruno.
Helen's body is now an empty shell, and it will be treated as such. The body will be picked up tomorrow by a funeral home and immediately cremated. The ashes will be given to her daughter Caroline, who has proved her very substantial character during these past few weeks. A celebration of Helen's remarkable life will be announced later.
And what a life it was! I am honored to have shared it with her for twenty-five years. She will be missed beyond my ability to say. She was the finest human being I have ever known.
If you would honor her accomplishments and memory, do not send flowers; do not send money to some charity.
Help send a kid to Camp Quest.