Does it get easier?

Hi, I'm a 25 year old paediatric nurse, but just over a year ago, at the age of 24 I suffered a sever bought of pneumonia that nearly killed me. I was in ICU for 3 weeks and had some horrendous hallucinations when I was coming off the sedatives and had a tracheostomy. I just wanted to ask other people, do you think it ever gets easier to think about? Will there be a time when it doesn't feel like such a huge part of my life?

I had PTSD from the hallucinations, but this has got much better since therapy, but still find myself watching for example a tv programme which triggers all the memories. I see funerals on tv and remember thinking how close I was to it being my funeral. Does this ever stop?

7 Replies

  • Yes, I'm 11 years down the line from a medical incident that caused PTSD and yes it stops, it gets easier the flashbacks get fewer and the time between them longer. I still have moments of unease if I had to go to the ward in question I would be uncomfortable but I could now do it. Hang in there it's early days.

  • Hello

    I haven't had this experience but my dad is going through this right now. I've read about the hallucinations and it must be a very very difficult time for you still. Did your family keep a diary of your time in ICU? I would suggest you surround yourself with family and ask many questions. Also I would der a therapyst. I've read it will get better with time and I wish you all the best.

    Think about it: you are a survivor so you are very very strong at heart! These thoughts and fears will be beated too.

  • Hi 2 years it is for me. And like yourself even at a year I was like is this ever going to end. I tend to dream more about mine, I must say I do still dream and think about how close I was to dying but I see as a positive now as I am still here to enjoy life and hopefully help others along.

  • Hi Helen,

    5 years ago today is the first day I remember after being taken the hospital by ambulance so seriously ill with pneumonia & severe sepsis I wasn't expected to survive, I had almost 2 months of the most frightening nightmares & hallucinations, at times believing I was dead, even doing a deal with the grim reaper to come back, at times it was like being in the Matrix films, I spent 3 months in ICU and 2 weeks of hell on a general ward, where no one had a clue a what I had been through, I actually looked forward to the daily pain of physio just to get off the ward.

    When I left hospital the PTSD hit me really badly and unfortunately my family took most of the flack, lucky for me my niece is a ICU nurse in the hospital I was in and managed to get me a follow up with the consultant who got both my wife and myself an appointment with a psychologist which helped but the real turning point for me was being asked to speak to an ICU patient finding it difficult, I visit him a few times but unfortunately he became very ill again and past away, it made me realise how incredibly lucky I was, so I became involved in starting a local support group, spoke at training days & to a group from ICU about my experience, our group then became part of ICUsteps in late 2012, and in 2013 I became a trustee of ICUsteps, speaking at their first ever conference in front of 200 people, something I would never have done before, I have since done a joint presentation with my wife at last years ACPRC conference.

    I still think of how close I was to death and can remember the nightmares like it was yesterday, it certainly put thing perspective and changes your outlook on life, I now enjoy being given a second chance of life, which was made even more special with the birth of my grandson in 2013 which helps the bad memories fade.

    Best wishes on your continued recovery.


  • Hello, it will get easier, it happened to me, its no big deal really, i just carried on as normal, went back to work and so on, take care and get well, bye

  • Dear Helen - I agree with all the comments here and I hope you find them helpful.

    I think for most people, the answer is 'yes' it does get easier, over time. The bad memories will hopefully lose some of their impact (if not their detail) and their capacity to frighten or de-stabilise you will lessen.

    But I don't think anything can prepare you or your loved ones for being a patient in ICU (possibly not even nurse training!): it is extreme, and the body and mind take an awful toll. So the mind has to heal, as well as the body.

    When I discovered this website, it was a comfort to read that most people have had vivid hallucinations and delusions, in ICU. Some quite common, involving paranoia, and having a dialogue with death.

    To realise one is so close to death is very scary.

    But people here have survived (I can now even joke about my weird hallucinations)

    and we each have to sort out our most useful methods of coping.

    Stay strong, be kind to yourself, and best wishes for your recovery

  • Hi Helen, It seems a lot of the replies mention fear of dying. I don't think it's as simple as that. When I was in ICU I wanted to die. I tried to will my heart to stop beating. It seemed to me that was the only way I could get out of there. I couldn't speak, I had a ventilator tube down my throat, but when the Doctor leaned over me I looked into his eyes and made slashing movements to my wrist. It seemed death was preferable to the nightmares.

    But it does pass eventually. Six years have gone by, and I rarely think about it. Just when I hear the noises the machines make in a TV program.

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