The nightmare that will never end.: It's now just... - ICUsteps


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The nightmare that will never end.

Luckyone profile image

It's now just over two years from when I was in ICU, so critically ill it was thought I wouldn't survive, the first seven and a half weeks of my three month stay in ICU I have no memory of, only the strange dreams and nightmares fill this time but one of these nightmares I cannot forget as in some strange way it came true.

The nightmare started with me in a local street standing outside a cafe waiting for it to open, I looked up the street and saw my wife's parents standing at a bus stop with their suitcases waiting to go on their annual coach holiday, I was then approached by the Grim Reaper who told me it was my time to go unless I could find someone to take my place, I was absolutely terrified I was only fifty two, I didn't want to die, I then went into the cafe and sat down thinking "why me" when my wife's father walked in, I told him what had just happened and he said "you're on your own there I'm not taking your place" and left.

When I was able to speak again after having my tracheotomy removed I told my wife about this nightmare and how it bothered me much more than the rest.

Three days after I was discharged from ICU to a ward my wife and her oldest sister came to visit me with the sad news that her father had died suddenly that day from a massive heart attack, it made me remember my nightmare and I thought in some strange way I must have done a deal with the Grim Reaper? Things only seemed to get worse when six months later my wife's mother died on the day they would have been going on their coach holiday, I don't know if I had some sort NDE where I saw into the future or it was just a really bad nightmare that somehow came true, I guess it's something I'll never know and will never be able to forget.

17 Replies

sorry to hear about your problem, my advice would be take no notice get on with life and enjoy yourself, dont get paranoid

patchworker profile image
patchworker in reply to coady

Coady, don't you think we're all a little paranoid after being in ICU?

Easier said thandone😥

at first i was but i got over it

Luckyone - you have given yourself this nickname, so part of you must think you are just that. The nightmares and depression that seem to affect us all that have survived critical illness are perhaps a price that is paid for our good fortune. I have tried to concentrate on this - I will see my children grow up. The kindness and depth of friendship that I and my family experienced while I was ill was beyond anything I could have imagined. So sure, I have bad days, but much less frequently now. And when I do I try to reflect on the miracle of my survival, and how much everyone wanted me to survive. There are so many positives to use to put the nightmares and horrors in their proper place - at the back of the mind. I hope in time that is where yours, like mine, will end up.

Luckyone, the nightmares we get in ICU are so real that even years later we can't help half believing they were true. I can still smell the fear and the burning from my nightmares after three years.

But in fact, your wife's parents were presumably old, and old people die. Sorry if that sounds brutal, but that's the way it is, it's not your fault. I'm sure you know that really, in the light of day, but it's in the middle of the night these thoughts come to us but IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.

From my 20 years as a nurse in critical care and my doctoral thesis investigating experiences of long stay patients in critical care I feel I have a lots of knowledge and experience of the issues you describe. Could write you a book - but I'll keep it brief - firstly, we call them dreams or nightmares - but they are hallucinations in a delirious state - therefore for the person experiencing them at the time they ARE reality as you perceive it. If they are very emotive they are very well remembered and elicit that emotion when people do remember them. All I can say is that they fade with time as does the emotion associated with them. Some patients do experience post traumatic stress after such experiences and if the memories of the 'dreams' are intrusive and very anxiety provoking - this may well be post-traumatic stress - certainly if still doing so months after leaving critical care. Might be worth talking to your GP about this - as there are some counsellors and psychiatrists who have an interest in this area and could help. I think from a practical point of view - getting back to as normal a life routine as possible and making sure you stay healthy (diet, exercise, sleep, and doing things you enjoy in life) are really important in your physical and psychological recovery.

I wish you all the very best and that you can, in the longer term, use your experiences to help you appreciate the good things in life and focus on them. We all take things for granted when life is going well - and we don't stop to smell the flowers enough.

I feel I've come a long way from my time in ICU 2 years ago, the first year being the hardest more so for my wife and family having to deal with my long stay in ICU and the loss of her parents in such a short space of time, we were both referred to a psychologist to help come to terms with the trauma we had been through but she had no scientific explanation for my strange dream but I should not feel guilty, I think it's the time of year that has brought the memory of that time back and will fade again to the back of my mind very shortly.

I look at life very differently now, material things in life mean so little to me now and being the co founder of our local support group helping other to understand that what they are feeling and going through is quite normal for someone that has been through a life threatening situation, it's so rewarding and in a strange way very helpful to me knowing I'm helping others and giving something back. :-)

Hi Luckyone

I wanted to share my thoughts about my stay in the ICU with you. First let me explain my background. I am now fifty-eight years old (male) I spent six days in an induced coma and a total of eight days in the ICU because of multiple organ failure after a kidney removal operation went badly wrong. I am a practising Christian (thirty-three years , Mormon). As a young man I was a recreational drug user including hallucinogenic's.

I believe that we have three types of experiences both during coma and recovering from the same. These are hallucinations, real events interpreted through the drug haze and NDE's. Hallucinations are pretty easy to recognise they are things that clearly don't exist (in my case Gold scrolling wallpaper that never looked the same twice) but don't include people that you can see clearly. Real experiences interpreted through the drug haze may be events like when I was moved to a new room that had a large amount of natural light I had a visitor. I remember speaking to this visitor sitting in a large sunlit stadium. I did not understand what I had experienced until some months later when I returned to visit the room. My experience with NDE's was in keeping with with some of the experiences outlined in these websites. While year

reading your story makes me think that you had a combination of all three.

Since human consciousness is not quantifiable. Because we each have one as individual as our fingerprints, there is no scientific proof that these things are not just hallucinations. However I shared some of my NDE's with people who were perfectly well who saw the same things that I did and experienced the same feelings that I did. While I in no way want to be critical I don't think that medical staff are capable of understanding these experiences until they have had the ICU experience themselves. Many who have NDE's will not share them with others as they regard them as personal and sacred. These websites will show you that there is nothing uncommon about what you experienced. I find it easier to accept that many of my experiences in the ICU were spiritual and so I don't have to go through the pain of trying to write them off as just hallucinations. I hope this helps.

Yes I know I had horrific hallucinations but when put in general ward thought it would b funny to make them 100 times worse they didn’t even know bout icu delerium until my brother read the leaflets outside icu and told them they just thought I was a nutter and awkward ext ext they didn’t have a clue and played me up !! Sorry to say this but icu were amazing and thank them for saving my life every one of them but when transferred to general ward went from amazing to a nightmare 90% of them didn’t even know just thought I was bonkers and nasty but that wasn’t me at all

Hi how do you get over the mental side after a coma, that's what I struggle with and have done since the coma,(November 2018)I've been to the Dr's, that didn't help. For the past year and a half I can't get my head round anything. I have nightmares, flashbacks. Life has never been the same, I'm meant to be a mum, but I can't go out on my own anymore, it feels like I'm excisting not living. I've got used to the physical side of things just not the mental or emotional side. My family don't understand cause there all glad I came back as I was only given a 5 % chance. I've tried talking to them. But they just don't understand.

Luckyone profile image
Luckyone in reply to Skyepie

Trying to get over the nightmares and hallucinations can be a major hurdle as they appeared so real, fortunately they do fade with time but you never really forget them, I would suggest visiting your GP and being asked to be referred for counselling unfortunately they can be a lengthy wait due to limited availibility but hopefully it could help you move forward or if you have an ICUsteps support group near you you could attend a meeting and meet others that have been through the ICU experience and understand what you're going through, details can be found at

The time of year does bring back memories, I was told I had cancer of the esophagus on New Years Eve 2009, and New Years Eve just isn't fun anymore!

Having read your blog and the replies I think there are lots of reasons this could have happened to you. My favorite theory is that when we are fighting for life, our brain knows this and this episode with you and the Grim Reaper is your brain working things out as you struggle. (a pictorial representation of your fight if you like). The episode then with your farther in law seems to me just an affirmation of the strong bonds in your family.

The fact of deaths happening is wholly coincidental but because of these bonds you join the two things together. DON'T! your in laws I am sure would hate this. Take care and try and concentrate on the life thaey would have wanted you to enjoy

Hello Luckyone,Poor you ! It is so difficult getting over the feeling of guilt ,which you dont need to ,it was a dream,you didnt actually "do it" or tho it seems so real you think you made it happen,you didnt ,think about it ,you actually didnt make a deal did you? you didnt offer money sell your soul ? no,so ,try to put it into perspective,not easy ,but,get yourself off that guilt trip,free yourself up ,your inlaws wouldnt want it ,we have to remember ,we all have a date and time ,it wasnt yours ,but,it was for them. Do try to put this to rest ,as you need some peace .

Hi Luckyone, my partner was also in an induced coma for 8 weeks his dreams / hallucinations are very varied, he calls this time “ his Journey “ reading your replies they are all valid! He remembers being in a cave in Whitby and the water coming in there were dead bodies all around him but he eventually found a plug he pulled it and the water went out along with the bodies except his? This is only a synopsis of his journey! At one point in ICU they gave him 48 hours, he went into multiple organ failure and wasn’t responding to treatment as a last resort to assist his lungs they flipped him onto his tummy to assist his lungs? Was this his plug? Who knows? He too still has his feelings of guilt and I know there are still some of his journey he doesn’t talk about or feel comfortable with? As we live in a foreign country we don’t have any after care so we try between us to get on with the aftermath of life in IcU, take each day as it comes, one year on he is still recovering, watching him yesterday doing his best to work with me ( he was shaking and sweating profusely doing a job that was a piece of cake before his illness) I am so very grateful for his life, for our life together however different it may be now ( and it is) , do whatever you are able when you can, enjoy the people you want to spend time with and don’t punish yourself for bad days we all have them! Good luck in your onward journey through life it’s a gift!

Survivors guilt? ICU and near death is very traumatic for the brain. Counseling helps.

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