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Icu nightmares

Hi, I've never had the courage to post on here, I've tried so many times and have deleted my post, so here goes;

After having back pain for over 20 years and trying physio, spinal injections my consultant said an operation was my final choice; after thinking long and hard I decided to have surgery, I mean I'm only 43 and thought the pain is only going to get worse the older I get.

My surgery went ahead on 5th September 2011, I never saw anyone the morning of surgery as in no consultant came to chat and go over things, the porters wheeled me down and that's wen my nightmare begins:

I hear Mrs Mitchell, Mrs Mitchell stop fighting against is we are trying to help you? I opened my eyes to three men and a lady who said she was Claire; machines beeping, wires everywhere, I was elevated in a bed and couldn't move, I looked at my hands and remember my fingers were like big fat sausages; I had a copd mask strapped to my head, I was absolutely petrified, I couldn't move and tears streaming down my face, Claire said I needed to calm down and that I was in hospital after complications during surgery, I had no idea what she was talking about; I was listening for accents and thought to myself in not in Cardiff, for some strange reason I believed I was in Australia and I've been sold. It was sheer hell, a lady came to my bed in her blue scrubs, she introduced herself to me and said she had saved my life. I had never felt so alone, and scared!! I spent 2 and a half months in hospital; basically surgeons swooped without my consent, a trainee surgeon unsupervised performed my surgery, he had completely severed my main artery, I had emergency servers cutting me from my breast bone to public bone, I had to be resesertated 3 times and was literally at deaths door; I had a collapsed lung, mrsa, pneumonia, clots on both lungs and a hepatoma in my tummy and acute respiratory problems. I've been in and out of hospital so many times since, I have more wrong with me now and my back is just the same.

I go to bed absoloutly shattered, but for some reason I wake up due to the flashbacks, my poor husband gets so upset, I shout in my sleep help me help me and he wakes me up, I dream that it's my actual funeral, I put my hands over my face trying to stop having that horrendous mask strapped to my head. I have ptsd and have a cbt, I've learnt to control my breathing when I get panic and anxiety attacks. I get so down and upset that my life has changed so much, yes I'm alive, but getting used to the new me is hell, I was out going bubbly, now I staying as I can't go out on my own as I just panic, I'm a wreck. I would like to thank each and everyone of you who have posted their experiences, it means I'm not going mad and that I'm not alone.. Many thanks for taking time to read this: phew I've actually done it, condemned it down, as you've all been in the same situation and understanding where I'm coming from.

10 Replies

Chez, you've done it, You've managed to tell us all about it.

You've had a very difficult time. I know how dreadful it is to wake up in ICU, not knowing where you are or whats happening. I thought I was being tortured to make me tell a secret, and kept trying to tell the nurse

that I didn't know any secrets. I also thought they were going to use my body as spare parts for other people. I didn't have a mask strapped to my head, but I had a ventilator tube down my throat, which was horrific.

It's five years since I was in ICU, and I'm mostly OK now. But for a long time I, like you, had flashbacks and nightmares and was afraid of everything. My surgery that went wrong was for cancer, so I am always afraid that the cancer will return.

One of the problems, as time passes, is that family and friends get less sympathetic, they understandably get fed up with hearing about it. they have their own problems. That's why this site is so great, everyone is happy to read our posts, and they understand and are willing to tell us their story. And we know we're not alone and not crazy.

Things will improve for you, but in the meantime, stay in touch with this site. Read other peoples stories and tell us more about yours whenever you feel like it. You've been very brave.

I'm sending you a hug xxx

1 like

Hi, thank you so much for your reply, I totally agree with you, this site has been a saviour for me, it was my cbt therapist that told me all about it. Like you say, I also had a tube down my throat, trying to explain to somebody who hasn't been through (thank god) isn't easy (thank god). So pleased to hear that your making progress, I'm told time heals, it's so hard though. I've had days when I think that's it I can't do this anymore, but I log onto this site and know I not alone. Do you still get flashbacks? I just get out of bed and get a cuppa and read a book.

Take care xx


I do still get flashbacks occasionally. I take my old laptop to bed with me, and I play spider solitaire for hours to take my mind off my thoughts.

What is a CBT therapist? I haven't heard of that.


Hi Patchworker,

CBT = Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

3 years ago I was in ICU. Six months later I went to my GP because I was deeply depressed. He sent to me to the local 'Health in Mind' who diagnosed me with PTSD and suggested CBT might help. I had to wait 9 months for an appointment to see a therapist. When I eventually got to see him, he apologised for the long delay saying this was because of a shortage of counsellors. These sessions are on a one to one basis and you talk through your situation. Personally I do not think it helped me but I have been told by others it does.

I hope this helps.


Hi lacemaker, I had sessions with my nhs cbt therapist. I saw her weekly for the first 2 months, after that I would see her on a monthly basis, this went on for one and a half years. I found the session totally distressing going over the events that happened, infact it made me worse as it was on my mind. I've recently had a further assessment, it's been recommended that I have a further 2 months of the cbt, I have declined as for me it didn't work, however I understand it's worked for others.


Thanks Lacemaker. I can see it might help some people.


Hi Chez,

Well done for being so brave and posting your story, we're all aware of how difficult it is reliving our own personal nightmares, you will always be offered support from this great community with many of us relating to your nightmare and hallucinations, personally it was one of the most frightening times of my life feeling so real at the time, things do slowly get better with time, it's now 4 years on for me and I still remember it like yesterday but can now control it.

I wish you all the best on that long road to recovery and a brighter future.

1 like

Hi luckyone, it's so lovely to hear from you, and sorry that you've also been through it. It's madness, I can remember the nurses names even the caterers, like you say, it's like it happened a few months ago and not 3 years. Im trying hard to move on, and take things day by day as I was setting myself unrealistic goals in the beginning. It's difficult as it's treated as medical negligence so I'm having to go over things and to be honest it really doesn't help. I'm truly blessed to have been told about this site, and im very grateful to everyone who has shared their story/experience. I'm so pleased to hear that things are improving for you. Take care, xxx


Well done you for being strong enough to write about your dreadful time,this in itself shows you are now are recovering from shocking trauma.

do you have a ICU steps in your area ? my husband and I found this group so very helpful,to talk face to face with other people who understand ,and not be worried about what you say .

Please keep writing on this site,and the web site for .


Hi, thank you for posting. I live in barry, vale of Glamorgan, unfortunately no groups near me, which is such a shame. I totally agree with what you say, it must help talking to others face to face, people who have shared the same trauma and sharing experiences, I do find it hard and hold my feeling back. My husband has been absoloutly amazing, but I don't share too much with him now as he doesn't understand, I mean my therapist was so lovely, but unless you've been through it it's difficult for them to understand how you feel. TAke care, and thank you x


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