I went back to visit the ICU 1 year on

My husband had a hospital appointment last week and I had a few hours to spare. I had already seen the signs for ICU and some of the other wards I had stayed on (almost this time last year). My legs were trembling as I walked the corridor. I phone a friend and recognised a porter who I said thank you to for all his ferrying me around to and from dialysis, X-ray, theatres etc. I didn't know whether it would be appropriate to press the buzzer or ICU unannounced knowing there were seriously poorly people in there with loved ones by their side. I got myself a coffee and bought a card from the shop. I wrote a few words of thanks and went to the door. " hi I was a patient on this ward last year and I've brought a thank you card for the nurses" "oh how lovely" said the nurse and I she let me straight in. On walking the long corridor which lead up to the ward I immediately recognised a nurse who was part of the outreach team, I think she remembered me and then another nurse who was also a family friend gave me a big hug. Then they offered to take me on the ward for a little look. A bit nervous but I really wanted to see to help me remember. It looked exactly as I rendered. Last year I was in an isolated cubicle directly opposite the fridges and cupboards that I remember were constantly being restocked with medicines especially during the night. I think I remembered the place well as I had 2 says there and the second I was much more alert and conscious. This time there was another patient in the cubicle, loved one by side, I didn't really want to look as their moments were private. I stood at the nurses station and I recognised a few other staff faces. I sort of of the impression that they were struggling to remember me, after all I was now standing tall, taller than some of them, with make up on and my own clothes. I know they probably see hundreds of patients every year so i don't expect them to remember me but I think maybe they might have a lightbulb moment later and realise. They said I looked too good and well to have been a patient on their ward. They said its nice to see an ex patient as Not all the people they look after are able to come back and see them. i had a chat with a male nurse about my stay, a few of my hallucinations and odd moments during my recovery like beeping of supermarket checkouts freaking me out. I was there about 15 - 20 minutes and then the all had to get back to work. I left bravely and quietly. I got quite a lot of comfort from seeing the ward again. I think because that time is in my thoughts every single day. Not in a bad or traumatic way but because it was such an intense time in my life. When I was through the door I sat on the bench outside for quite a while. Probably where my friends and relatives sat last year and maybe shed a tear. I'm glad I went, I felt happy, I made some peace. It was a very draining experience. And now 2 days later I'm still feeling quite drained by it. I remembered how ill I felt and how sad I was and how I am actually sill recovering. I really pushed myself when I got home as have a family to look after and as soon as I could walk I've just got in with doing all the normal stuff I have to do for everyone else. I think especially as its coming up to a year since I was in hospital I need to just slow down a little and look after myself a bit more. My psychologist called it being mindful and I just want to focus on my home and the people immediately around me and the things I do day to day. I turned up at a&e 28th October 2012 and was discharged in January. I've had a lot of follow up appointments, declined some medications on my own ethical grounds and also declined reconstructive surgery. I'm so thankful for this community as I know no one in real life who has been through anything like this who could possibly understand. Thanks for reading.

4 Replies

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  • So glad to hear you found going back to the unit helpful. It's not something that everyone can face but I certainly found it beneficial. Being able to see a place which we remember through a distorted vision due to the severity of our illness and medication can help strip it of the power it holds over our memories (though this was more true of the general ward for me). It can also help us start piecing together some of our delusional memories and begin to make sense of things.

    When we left ICU, we were still far from being better so I think it must be so rewarding for the staff to see how far we've come, thanks to their hard work. It must be so hard for them given the number of us who don't make it out of intensive care so to see the fruits of their dedication and caring walk back in, well on the road to having a life again, must be so uplifting.

    Seeing the ICU again while we're in better health, from a non-horizontal position and with the ability to leave when we choose can be a real benefit in coming to terms with the experience and I'd recommend it to anyone who has the chance. I'm glad you found it helpful and hope it's a milestone in being able to put these things behind you. Well done.

  • I think you did so well and it put a lot of unanswered questions so strange, it is all very draining and frightening when you return but it has been two years for me and with the positive thoughts from every person family doctors I c u and wonderful aftercare team I received I am finding it easier all the time I don't rush round take my time and don't plan anything touch. Take every day as it come and always click on to me if u need a chat love xxx

  • Facing your thoughts is a great way to get some sort of resolution. I have to go by every time I go for a blood test. If it was not for the team of dedicated people I may not be typing this today.

    Be Well

    Phill

  • hi there!

    its great to hear that your experience was positive for you.

    I can imagine how difficult it must have been with so many emotions going through your mind all at once, it does encourage me to actually one day just go in to the ICU unit myself, and not procrastinate it, because it is so true, without the help of these people we wouldnt be here typing to each other. And I agree, I really do feel like only people who have been through it can only comprehend what it was like and the after effects of it all - the recovery included.

    very proud!

    rukshana

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