Has anyone gotten any memories back after being seriously ill in the ICU?

I recently came home after a 3 month illness. I had ARDS and septic shock and spent several weeks in ICU on life support. I have no memory of the time in ICU and for several weeks after. I also have no memory of being sick at home for 3 days prior to being diagnosed. I hear many stories from family and friends, but I want so badly to remember things for myself. When I try to remember, I get panic attacks , but I can't remember anything. Has anyone else had this problem?

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  • The missing time can certainly be one of the hardest things to accept and was certainly the case for me. I have no memory of the 24 hours prior to my accident and the earliest snippets of memory afterwards were three weeks later having had a tracheostomy removed that I don't remember having. Even after this though, my memory is patchy for weeks and even months. Some of this will be down the the severity of our illness and the strong drugs needed to treat us can be a factor as well.

    A phrase which I heard a lot in my recovery was "don't beat yourself up about it" and I guess now I can understand that a little more with the passage of time. Try not to fret about not being able to remember. There may be things which come back to you, there may be others that never do but getting frustrated by it or fixated about it won't make it more likely and if anything may make it harder. I considered hypnotherapy for a while but never pursued it - I think being aware of what I still had and making the most of the second chance I'd been lucky enough to be given became a stronger focus.

    I hope your recovery goes well and you're able to put the difficult experience behind you.

    Peter

  • Hi Maria,

    I think this is completely normal, frustrating though it is. I am just past a year after a similar length admission, and although I do remember the run up to being taken to theatre to be put to sleep, I don't remember much for a while after I was brought round, and it's hard when people talk about it, who were there with you, but you feel you weren't really there, because the memory has gone.

    And now, at a year, I can remember some of my terrible hallucinations without it reducing me to terrified tears and anger and panic, partly because I have started to write and draw about it. It took me a while to get to that, and there is NO rushing the recovery from critical illness, so let yourself have time, you need lots of strong positive emotion so surround yourself with those things that make you feel good about yourself. And keep talking.

    Wishing you all the very best.

  • I had really bad memory problems after coming out of ICU to such an extent I thought I was getting alzimers but after 6 months things improved but I must say my memory is not has good as it was. I do still have a sleep issue after over 5 years. Please look at the good things in life and do not beat your self up over it. I have found it is great to talk about it to people that have been there.

  • I spent 3 months in ICU two and a half years ago with double pneumonia, severe sepsis, multiple organ failure and ARDS, the only thing I can remember was going to hospital in an ambulance and the paramedic joking I would have to pay for the 4 bottles of oxygen I had in the 10min journey, to help pay for their Christmas party, I remember going in to A & E and then nothing until 6th February 2011, seven & a half weeks later, a time that had been full of nightmares and hallucinations, this is when I was brought out of sedation finding I couldn't speak as I had had a tracheotomy, not knowing the nightmare my family had been through being told on several occasions to come to the hospital when it looked like I wasn't going pull through. I only know what happened to me because my wife kept a diary of those missing weeks which made me realize I am the lucky one to come through it and be given a second chance of life.

    Just like Offcut I have memory problems which became more apparent after I was assessed by a clinical psychologist I don't know if it's down to the amount drugs I was given to save my life or due to my illness but it's a small price to pay for the gift of life.

    Best wishes for your continued recovery,

    Bill

  • This has been a revelation to me..In April I spent 10 days in ICU following a triple heart attack.I remember nothing of those 10 days but now I am having nightmares,hallucinations and insomnia plus panic attacks.Thank you all for letting me know this is quite normal.

    Grog

  • Great quote "small price to pay for the gift of life"

    The brain and body have been bombarded with drugs to make our healing easier but it messes up the normal process. I think that we then try to put lost things in the right boxes but sometimes we cannot open them. Some we never will as they have been locked forever.

  • Hi maria

    My mother spent 5 weeks in the ICU just few months ago, after her second heart operation (mitral valve) within only 3 months and with serious problems in her lungs, she was critical and had organs failure etc... Now she's perfect healthy and mostly recovered. Nevertheless she has the same feelings that you comment, nightmares, and she can't stop thinking about the time she spent there. She had forgotten almost everything, even days before the operation, but as the time passes she reminds more and more.

    As daughter, I can say that I completely understand her, we, my father and siblings and me suffered so much seeing how much she was suffering there, but now she is so well we can understand that as Offcut mention that it was "small price to pay for the gift of life"

    My mother's surgeon told her trying not to think about her stance in the ICU but only about positive things, he told her that nightmares, memory lost and so on are completely normal. He told us that this is a very hard situation and even he compare it to the situations lived in war/concentration camps, i don't know if it's exaggerating because I haven't going through something like that. I can only say as relative that even for us has been a very hard proof.

    best wishes and you are a lucky one like my beloved mother and all these wonderful people

  • Don't know about anyone else but I'd love to be able to not have memories.

    Sometimes maybe it is best for the mind to forget things as they can be traumatic.

    My mum does not remember some on the stuff that happened when I was in ICU and I think that is the brains natural flight or fight response to block out traumatic events.

    Also as for the patient a lot of drugs which are used have an amnesiac effect so no matter how hard you try you may never get those memories back.

  • My wife was told twice that I was not going to see the night though and does not remember it even now but my sons do agree it was said to her

  • Almost three years ago I was in ICU after mitral valve surgery. I had multi organ failure, was intubated and in a coma for two weeks and have no memory of the two week period. What I have memory of are hallucinations/dreams/visions (most of which were terrifying) that I had during the period I was unconscious. I also had PTSD symptoms for about one and a half years after out of hospital. As of today I have not recovered memories of the two week period; my family and friends have filled in some blanks. At times I'd like to have memories returned, but mostly I don't feel the need anymore. The PTSD symptoms have abated considerably; I have a good psychotherapist familiar with these things who helped. Since I am an artist, I found depicting my experiences of the ICU and unconscious period very helpful...I have done collage, painting and writing. If you get panic attacks when you try to remember, maybe your body isn't ready to remember (and may never be). I found it most helpful to focus more on decreasing my panicky feelings when they happened. Good luck to you, It does get better...I have found this site very helpful also. Knowing I wasn't alone helped a lot.

  • Almost three years ago I was in ICU after mitral valve surgery. I had multi organ failure, was intubated and in a coma for two weeks and have no memory of the two week period. What I have memory of are hallucinations/dreams/visions (most of which were terrifying) that I had during the period I was unconscious. I also had PTSD symptoms for about one and a half years after out of hospital. As of today I have not recovered memories of the two week period; my family and friends have filled in some blanks. At times I'd like to have memories returned, but mostly I don't feel the need anymore. The PTSD symptoms have abated considerably; I have a good psychotherapist familiar with these things who helped. Since I am an artist, I found depicting my experiences of the ICU and unconscious period very helpful...I have done collage, painting and writing. If you get panic attacks when you try to remember, maybe your body isn't ready to remember (and may never be). I found it most helpful to focus more on decreasing my panicky feelings when they happened. Good luck to you, It does get better...I have found this site very helpful also. Knowing I wasn't alone helped a lot.

  • I am missing two and a half days of my life before I was admitted to ICU. Two and half years later I still cannot remember what I did although the photo's show me having a good time at a party. I cannot remember certain things I did six months prior , over Christmas and New Year but I have photo's to show what a good time I had but I still don't remember in my own mind. I was told that my memory would improve after six months but it hasn't.

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