My experience in ICU (The relatives view) - ICUsteps


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My experience in ICU (The relatives view)

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Ken's Story

This story is basically for Sylvia as she has no recollection for at least a fortnight prior to the events that lead up to her ending up in hospital. This may also explain some of her strange comments.

Sylvia developed arm & leg shakes & a loss of appetite over a period of a week. We visited our GP on a Friday & Sylvia was booked in for a full set of blood tests for the following Tuesday.

Unfortunately on the Monday things changed for the worst. Late Monday morning Sylvia collapsed and although I was able to get her up & into bed she collapsed again mid afternoon. An ambulance was called & she was taken to A&E. I remembered to make up a carrier bag containing her medications & dressings that she needed on a day to day basis & which we believed did not have any bearing on her current problems.

She initially was placed in a childrens cubicle with excellent paintings on the wall portraying characters from the Jungle book, We found out later from a nurse that the murals were done by the nursing staff in their spare time. Sylvia was put on Oxygen & Blood was taken. I kept having to chase up Oxygen replacement bottles as she was emptying them every 20 mins or so, (Due to the Childrens cubicle not having 'Mains Oxygen'). Later she was moved to a cubicle where she was placed directly onto 'Mains Oxygen'. At no time was Sylvia unconscious just bored.

The blood results came back showing that Sylvia had Pneumonia, Anaemia, Empyema. This was of some concern to me but I thought that she would be up & about in a day or two. How wrong I was! Sylvia was moved to the Medical Assessment Unit,(MAU), for the night. I was allowed in to say goodnight as they were preparing to give her blood. I left with the comment that I will phone in the morning for an update. I let our daughters know the news with a promise of future updates.

At 2.50am the following morning I was awoken by a phone call from the hospital saying that Sylvia had been rushed into Intensive Care & that she was being placed under heavy sedation. I could go straight away but I would not be able to see Sylvia for several hours due to the amount of tubes being placed giving her drips & drops etc. They advised a visit about 10am which I agreed to. I do not remember getting any more sleep.

After informing our girls of the latest I arrived that Tuesday morn about 10am, tired and a bit apprehensive. I was not expecting my wife of many years to be laying in a bed with so many tubes down her throat. I understood the requirement to wear an apron & boy was I pleased that it was green & not the pink used at another bed. The nurse told me that Sylvia's jewellery had to be removed so the nurse & I spent some time trying to remove rings off tight fingers. The jewellery was all noted & then handed to me following my signature of acceptance. I was told that Sylvia may be able to hear me if I spoke, so I held her hand and gabbled rubbish for several hours. A Doctor advised me of her problems, basically her organs were close to closing down & she was in the right place just in time.

From that day on I visited Sylvia at 2.30pm every day she was in hospital. I rang ICU every day about 10am for updates. The next day Sylvia was exactly the same & I just rambled while holding her hand. Our girls visited also. On the next day, a thursday, I had to wait outside in the waiting room as the nurses were stopping the sedation & removing the tubes down the throat. When I finally was allowed in Sylvia still had the oxygen tube down her throat but she was stirring & then she tried to remove it while the nurse & I tried to comfort her. I asked her if she recognised me & she called me her idiot husband which baffled me & I found out later that she thought & still thinks that I was wearing a jumper with a green parrot on it.

I was warned that she would be slightly delirious & hallucinate for several days as she came out of the heavy sedation. During the course of that afternoon she kept seeing 'Blue ones'. These turned out to be the various medical staff dressed in blue coveralls walking past. It was both amusing & a source of relief as I was getting my wife back. The following day she was vastly improved & more aware but again amused passing staff by pulling tissues out of a box & calling them clouds. All this time Sylvia still had to wear an oxygen mask as her oxygen requirements was still high.

The next few days she was awake & querying what had happened. She had no memory of the previous few weeks including the visit to the GP or falling at home & would ask me to relate what had happened. Sylvia has had a problem with short memory loss for some years but it was much more evident during her time in ICU. On several occasions I would go through the course of events that led her to being in ICU on that day.

Sylvia was told that she was stable, vastly improved & was going to be moved to HDU prior to moving to a ward. She spent a couple of days in HDU while waiting for a ward bed elsewhere. Eventually a bed came available in Gardner ward, (Next door). Sylvia was moved to the ward by wheelchair & I was used as a packmule to carry all her dressings, meds, clothes & other personal items. Sylvia was pushed through a side door to the Ward whereas muggins here had to go around by going out to the main corridor, along and then into the Gardner ward & had to talk my way in as Sylvia had not, as yet, been booked in.

By this time Sylvia was wearing a smaller oxygen mask which she found easier for scratching her nose. The following day when I arrived I was informed at Gardner ward that Sylvia was no longer there. It had been decided that Sylvia was a medical case & Gardner was a surgical ward. In this case Wellington ward. I walked down the endless corridor to find it, (It seemed about a mile in length), and when I got there I found that all her personal effects had not gone with her. The idiot husband volunteered to hike back to pick up her belongings & return. When I left Sylvia that evening her oxygen mask had been replaced by a nasal cannula.

As usual I rang the Wellington ward at 10am the following morning for the daily update & was informed that Sylvia had been rushed into ICU again over night. I found out from Sylvia days later that it was a rush as they were running down the corridor with her bed, she remembers the corridor lights flashing past. When I arrived at ICU at 2.30 I was asked to wait as the doctor wanted a word. While I was waiting my eldest daughter arrived and we both waited in trepidation.

The doctor appeared & he took us both into a small room, he was accompanied by a nurse. The doctor did introduce himself but I was waiting for the reason for the meeting so my mind did not take it in, although he came across as very friendly & compassionate.

He started out by asking if we were aware that 1 in 5 did not walk out of ICU. I said ''do you mean that she now has a 50:50 chance as its two visits in 10 days''. The doctor did not commit himself but I got the impression that I was near the mark. He said that the previous evening Sylvia developed severe breathing problems & it was thought that ICU was the only place for her. The main problem was her Empyema. Her chest infection was a major concern and would take a long time to resolve. The doctor went on to say that Sylvia had been sedated again but only lightly & was definitely aware of those around her. The reason for the sedation was to get a lot of antibiotics into her quickly & also to keep her oxygen levels up.

We thanked the doctor and went in to see her. I thought on entering the room, thank god! She is the the green cubicle. My daughter & I sat on her left side holding her hands. She was sufficiently aware that she tried to open her eyes to see us but the sedation would overcome her & she would stop for a few minutes. She then would try again to open her eyes but she never actually succeeded.

Th following day when I visited I went into the ICU ward & could not see Sylvia in the cubicle opposite. A nurse said ''Sylvia is up in the corner'', I looked & thought to myself, ''Oh no! She is in the Pink apron zone''. I do not look good in pink. Sylvia was aware and generally free of tubes into her mouth. We were able to converse & I would go through her story again. She still does not remember any of the events leading up to her being in hospital. After several days in ICU and two days in HDU she was moved to James ward and almost immediately moved to Baird ward. She stayed there for about two weeks.

She would complain on every day that she did not feel ill & when was she going home. On several days I would be allowed to take her out in her wheelchair to the Hospital entrance which felt to her like 'Freedom'

Sylvia went in on the 23rd April 2012 & left on the 24th May 2012.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Staff of the ICU for giving my wife back to me.

1 Reply

Hi Ken, thanks for sharing your view. I hope Slyvia finds this useful to look back on. I would like my relatives to do the same for me. I have photos and videos but they don't capture their feelings and they are all just relieved to see me out of hospital. Some say look forward, not back but I 'like' to, to make some sense of it all. Not just selfishly but for others too - my mum has had her longest manic/bi-polar episode since and because I was ill. How is Slyvia now? I met former ICU survivors two months after my discharge last year and was told this may hit me in three ones from discharge. And it did! PTSD, depression, alcohol dependency and not bonding with the baby I apparently gave birth to. BUT time and medication - counselling not for me - has brought me on leaps and bounds. I want to talk about it every day but don't. Who will listen, really listen? Bless the NHS and their wonderful work. All the best for you, Sylvia and your girls - I hope she can put this harrowing experience behind her.

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