Did anyone else have an aha moment - when you realised what could have been and what your loved ones must have gone through?

I have included the bare bones of my story below but what I'm wondering is if anyone else had a moment when reality kicked in? I understood that I could have died but the emotional aspect has become a reality and I've started to realise what my family and friends must have gone through.

In Feb this year I went for a routine laparoscopic adhesiolys (my third) and it went wrong and I ended up with a perforated bowel and by the time they picked it up and transferred me to the other hospital I was in septic shock with renal failure and fluid in my lungs. I spent 12 days in ICU, 3 in HDU and 2 or 3 weeks on the ward. All up I had 5 surgeries. I recently saw the surgical registrar from my team and after he gave me a big hug and kiss he was the most honest any medical person has been and he told me I was the sickest person he'd ever seen survive ( for 3 or 4 days I was the sickest person in ICU), which I appreciated hearing as I want to know everything about that time (due to memory issues I think my poor family were asked the same questions a lot), I live in New Zealand and at the hospital I was in there was no suggestions of diaries or other helpful things (my husband and I have made some suggestions and will be making some more) so it's fallen to them to fill me in. Though some of my surgical team are amazing and have helped lots, which is good as I have an incisional hernia and am going to have to have yet another operation when everything has settled inside from the other ops.

8 Replies

  • Hi Helen,

    I think all of us that have been through a life threatening illness or accident and have ended up in ICU, feel a strong sense of guilt of what we put our family members through, even though everything is beyond our control, often with little or no memory of what happened to us, due being in an induced coma or filled with so many life saving drugs.

    I was lucky my wife kept a diary of the missing 7 1/2 weeks I have no memory of, out of my 3 months in ICU, it was one of the hardest things I've ever read, reading that I was so critical, given a 10% chance of survival, I had double pneumonia, severe sepsis,multiple organ failure complicated with ARDS, my consultant telling me I was their Christmas present to themselves (as it was Christmas time 2010) as they never thought I would survive.

    I still feel guilty today of what I put my wife and family through, but they tell me I'm still here that's all that matters to them, for me as I'm sure it is for many other survivors it's just great to have a second chance of life.

  • Wow you went through a huge ordeal., I'm so lucky it didn't go that far for me. From what I've been told every time they thought things would go to worst case scenario I rallied. thank you for sharing your experience it helps to know I'm not alone.

  • Hi Helen - you have been through an awful lot of pain and trauma, and it's not that long ago. But you sound in good shape mentally in spite of all the ops, and even with one to follow. Yes you are right about the 'aha' moment. I agree with Luckyone, feeling guilty about what we put our loved ones through. We know this is not rational, and that we couldn't help being in ICU, nevertheless, that feeling is there. I think it 'hits' people at different times post-ICU, and like Luckyone, I still have that guilt about what I must have put my daughter through - two years after my ICU experience. I have told a few friends about the guilt feeling, and they are very surprised and don't understand it at all, so I've given up mentioning it. Thank goodness for a website like this where I find that other exICU patients feel the same.

    I suspect the guilt, like the ICU trauma, is going to live with us 'in perpetuity': sometimes it recedes into the background, other times it hits you with full force and can be very emotional.

    Helen, you have had a terrible time and it sounds like you are coping very well

  • Thank you for your kind reply. I have good days and bad days but on the whole I'm trying to be thankful I'm alive and accepting the way things are at the moment is part of it isn't it. Though seeing the impact on those I love is hard, luckily for me I have people who understand how I feel but I don't want to burden them.

  • Hi Helen, yes once the adrenaline has helped us and our loved ones, the reality of what has happened can set in. I met a former patient on my own discharge and she (another maternal case) said "three months time and it will hit you." She was spot on. It can take others different timescales, some may compartmentalise it and look forward only. Not me. I too, have an incisional hernia three years on and if I hadn't had what's gone before I'd just crack on with surgery but...

    If your family want to talk (mine don't), it may be good for both but if not, this is the place for you all to get some help. All the best for your new future x

  • Oh wow I think it was pretty much 3 months for me too! My family has been great till now but I think they're kinda getting over me asking so much so it's great to know this site is here and people who understand are only a button push away.

  • Just to add some positive news on the hernia front, I also has a perforated bowel, severe sepsis, ICU, HDU, etc about 7 years ago, and after 3 surgeries ended up with an incisional hernia. It took three years to get to the point where I could face it, but I had a laparoscopic repair with a large piece of mesh and it has been very successful and definitely worth it. I think after emergency incisional surgery, you don't realise how different a straightforward, elective laparascopic operation will be!

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. Unfortunately mine will need to be an open operation but on the plus side they'll fix my scar etc while they're at it. I can't wait till it's gone as it's big, sore and annoying.

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