Understanding delirium

My husband has been in ICU for 3 weeks after a fall from height, he has multiple fractures which are improving and has been on and off a ventilator 3 times due to secretions in his chest. He has been confused for nearly 2 weeks which became apparent in between the days he was ventilated, 2 weeks ago I was told he had delirium, I have watched this get worse over the last few days and yesterday he was getting regular doses of haloperidol which was calming him down. It's the hallucinations and the constant muttering that concern me most, he has been scanned 3 times for a head injury which isn't showing anything up, his inflammation markers are improving and he doesn't have a temperature so doesn't really have the classic symptoms of delirium but it doesn't really seem to be improving, he is also just 44 and up until now was physically fit and well. I know you can't diagnose how long this will take and if he will have any lasting side effects but I just wondered if there is anyone that can share a similar story and give me a little hope?

7 Replies

  • I was 52 when I spent 3 months in ICU nearly 4 years ago with double pneumonia, severe sepsis and multiple organ failure, the first 7 1/2 weeks I have no memory of they were just filled with nothing but nightmares and hallucinations at times very frightening believing people are trying to kill me, I even believed I saw the grim reaper walking around the ward then taking someone away, my wife claims I told her I had a mouse asleep in the bed something that she still finds very funny. I can only explain it from a patients view of like being in a film like the "Matrix" nothing really makes sense, it's like being in a totally different world, I've spoken to many people at support group meetings that have been through the same thing, the drugs, noises, strange environment and doctors and nurses leaning over you and sticking needles in you can make things appear very different, thankfully things do improve.

  • I am very sorry to hear what you are going through with your husband's delirium.

    It's nothing unusual to be delirious after ventilation and induced coma in Intensive Care

    Here is a link to an article that sheds more light on the ICU delirium

    "The 5 things you need to know if your loved one is confused, agitated and delirious in Intensive Care"


    I hope that helps!

  • Thank you very much, this has been most helpful.

  • Hi, so sorry to hear this. My mum has been in ICU for 8 weeks and has a tracheostomy. So she can't make any noise but she is mouthing things. She clearly has all her chairs at home because she is nodding and answering questions, but she is confused, muttering, aggressive and distant at times. I don't think this is to do with anything wrong with her brain as she has lung problems. Some days she doesn't communicate at all, when she has had some sedation for anxiety. I don't think you can tell anything until he us off all the drugs. X

  • I don't have any idea how hard this must be for you. Are you caring for kids and trying to work too? My goodness. Remember to look after yourself: have a bath, cut your nails, use moisturiser, that sort of thing.

    My husband was in ICU for 18 days post surgery. He had a short period of delirium and a long period of a bad reaction to a drug that somehow was on his chart. It was horrible. Absolutely the pits, and I remember how much I would have traded just to see him walking down the street. The staff were great but really didn't understand how concerning a time it is.

    Full recovery is possible. But it will take about ten times longer than anyone will say! My DH went into ICU at 11pm on 17 September 2013. A year ago today. Last night I picked him and his mate up from his first pub night out and I am listening to him snore as I type :) I could not be happier.

    Hang in there. In my previous life (before we knew anything was wrong health-wise) I assessed post-injury cognitive impairment for a man who had driven into the side of a tractor that pulled out into a dual carriageway in front of him. He broke pretty much every bone, and his recovery was very slow, but cognitively he was absolutely fine. Delirium isn't a predictor of damage, it's just a panicked brain trying to make sense of a close-to-death body and a bunch of strangers.

    DH tells me he had more dreams and hallucinations than he talked about then, all trying to fit things together. Music helped, cards and pictures within sight helped, talking to him as normal helped. I was so blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with him. It's tiring but it's better than worrying.

    One thing I look back on now is how I was looking for any sign, any encouragement, and pinning my hopes on that. It's exhausting but you can't stop yourself. A year on and I realise none of it helped!

    Make sure you look after yourself though- you've a long road ahead and it's a marathon not a sprint. Keep posting- let us know how he is doing?


  • Just wanted to drop a note to give you an update. My husband was released from ICU 2 weeks ago and transferred to an Ortho ward, I was concerned as his delirium had returned 24 hrs before but they moved him at 10pm so I wasn't there to question it. Anyway, the other ward discovered a urine infection so gave him anti b's which worked, I am delighted to say that he is on the mend and all signs of confusion and delirium have disappeared. The next step is to get him a bit more mobile so that he can be transferred to a hospital nearer our home town and then his rehabilitation programme will begin to ensure he is home for Xmas. Thank you for your messages of support and I hope your loved ones continue to improve too.

  • Hi all its lovely reading all theses story's , I'm going through the same with my dad , he is still in Icu been 3 months since his accident which resulted in a broken neck , ribs , lungs , and cardiac arrest , delirium is a horrible thing so upsetting seeing dad like this , dad is still on a ventilator and in the weaning progress once dads breathing is ok dad will be sent to rehab it's going to be a long journey . Wish I could see the light at the end of the tunnel 😰xx

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