As the 3 year anniversary of my admission to ICU comes round (18th December) I reflect on how it has changed my life, one minute I was looking forward to Christmas the next I was fighting for my life, rushed to hospital by ambulance with suspected swine flu, taken from A&E straight to ICU, so critically ill it was thought I wouldn't survive, my wife being told I had a less than 10% chance of survival.
I have no memory from that day until 6th February 2011, but my wife and family remember everyday of that living nightmare. I actually had double pneumonia, sepsis, multiple organ failure, later complicated with ARDS, respiratory arrest, 2 cardiac arrests with a chest drain and tracheotomy thrown in to complete the set. All I can remember are the vivid nightmares, believing I was dead, stuck in this bazaar virtual world with no escape, until I was offered a deal by the grim reaper to allow back into the real world, which must have been coming out of sedation seeing even more strange things, believing the nurses wanted to kill me and they were taking other patients away to dispose of them.
I spent 3 months in ICU, most of it connected to a ventilator unable to speak, my mouth so dry I thought they were torturing me and then sitting me in a chair for the first time, it felt like sitting on broken glass, I began to think I would never leave, but on 15th March I was sent to a ward which was an even bigger nightmare with no understanding of what I'd been through, my wife's father died suddenly and getting another infection made things even worse, I was so glad to finally leave on 30th March.
I thought being home would be great, I had no idea how difficult it would be coming to terms with what happened to me, becoming so depressed and feeling a burden on my family I wished I'd never survived, I was in constant pain, had no energy and struggled to walk as I had lost so much muscle, I just wanted it all to end.
It was at my first followup clinic 3 month later when things started to change when my ICU consultant started to get the help both my wife and myself needed by referring us to a psychologist, but as there's waiting list it took 4 months before we had an appointment, tragedy struck again when my wife's mother died in September another massive blow for the family.
It's when I went for a second followup that things really changed, the followup clinic nurse asked me if I would speak to an ICU patient who had been in ICU for 60 days and was feeling very down, I visited him on several occasions planning to share our experiences over a beer when he got home unfortunately he never made it. This made me realize how lucky I was. leading to me, with the help of my niece an ICU nurse, in setting up a local ICU patients and relatives support group, holding our first drop-in at a local pub in April 2012 with about 8 people turning up, since then we have grown joining ICUsteps in October 2012, with me doing presentation to hospital staff and a local conference, in September this year I had the great privilege of becoming a trustee of ICUsteps and the honour of being a patient speaker at the recent ICUsteps conference, I feel I've finally turned those lemons into lemonade, by helping others on their journey to recovery.
Best wishes to everyone on that road to recovery and remember you are not alone.