Penn George Goertzel died at 12:10 PM on Saturday August 18, just over an hour after the nursing staff at the hospital started a morphine drip and removed Penn from the mechanical ventilator. The final hours of his life were calm and peaceful and he was surrounded with loving friends and family, offering Penn all the support they could, each in their own way. Present were myself, my wife Sue Ellen, my step-daughter Ariel, Penn's step-daughter Alexis, her husband Allen, Penn's friend Jessica, and family friend Dan Morris. The hospital staff were sensitive to the needs of Penn and those gathered, and skilled and knowledgeable in allowing a sad and difficult process to be as tranquil as possible.
On Friday afternoon, the 17th, myself,
Alexis, and Jessica met with several members of the medical staff, including
Dr. Levy, the transplant surgeon most closely involved with Penn since
before his liver transplant. They essentially agreed that there was
very little hope to do anything more to help Penn get well enough for another
liver transplant, and recommended that Penn be removed from some of the
mechanical life support systems in a manner that would allow him to die
in the most humane way possible. Penn never did get out of ICU again,
as he seemed ready to at the time of the last update. I think his
physical and spiritual resources were exhausted. He became weak and sleepy
to the degree
he had to be intubated again and was unable to get off the mechanical ventilator. The drug-resistant bacterial infection that seemed to be gone showed up again in a new culture and he also developed a yeast infection in his lungs. His seriously ill liver, kidneys, and lungs were too much for him to overcome. It was clear to me, as well as the others visiting Penn, including Ted, Penn's eldest brother, that Penn was obviously much sicker. I was prepared to strongly press the doctors to justify a recommendation of continued treatment if they indeed had made one. I have no doubts that it was time for Penn to be allowed to go, indeed my doubts are that we allowed him to struggle too long.
I loved my brother deeply, both because
he was my brother, one fifth of the family I grew up in, and also because
he was a good and loyal friend, and a generous, unique, creative and fun-loving
person. I honor him for the love and support he gave our parents in their
last years, for the support, encouragement and friendship he gave my children
and the children of so many others. He was a very loved Uncle Penn
to many. I honor him for the ability, commitment, and energy he exhibited
as a teacher and as the creator of plays and stories. I know all
of you loved and respected Penn for these and other reasons. Hopefully
many of you will be able to gather for a memorial service and celebration
of Penn's life to be held in Seattle, possibly in the middle part of September.
We welcome suggestions as to time and location, as well as the form of
the event itself. Perhaps some members of the theater community would
want to present something from one of Penn's plays? Certainly reading
a portion of the book Penn was writing juxtaposing his youthful adventures,
including drug use, and his recent struggles with liver disease would
be appropriate. Please respond ASAP.
I have the responsibility as executor of Penn's estate. I welcome requests from individuals, or inquiries about, items of Penn's that have particular meaning for you, that in some way relate to your present or past connection with Penn. Works of art, books, photographs, clothing, or whatever. I would love to see your connections with Penn be facilitated in some small way with tangible objects. Please don't be shy. It would be a gift to me to be able to help do this.
We will be in touch with you again about plans for the memorial service. Thank you for your support of Penn and those of us close to the events of the last two months. I wish each and every one of us the ability to truly feel what Penn's death means for us, and as we continue in our lives somehow transform our feelings into being more the person we would like to be.
Love and peace to all, John.