Bottom Line: I’d be completely dead without St Mary’s Intensive Care Unit.
I hope you print this story, it means a lot to me to be able to say these things and would dearly like my lifesavers to read my account ..: )
A few years ago, after a summer of severe breathing deficiencies, a new diagnosis of adult-onset asthma and a stinking, rattly chest infection – my lungs decided to backfire completely and the last I remember was collapsing at the wheel of my car on my driveway.
4 weeks or so later I awoke, bewildered at my surroundings, in St Mary’s ITU.
I had been tracheotomy’d and was being kept alive with a ventilator and 25 or so other lines and tubes and Lord knows what. If I had somewhere to stick a tube or cable then a tube or cable had been stuck there. When I ran out of holes they’d just drilled some new ones. ; )
It’s quite the eye opener going from the driver’s seat of a Volvo to an Intensive Care Unit I can tell you – and it’s the part in between car and ICU that I’d like to talk about.
First off though I must acknowledge the superb care I was told I received (I was in cloud cuckoo land myself frankly – on to that later) It really is bizarre to owe so many people you have never met, so much. My family visited almost 24/7 and have spent hours going through my treatment with me and helping me fill in the gaps.
When something removes 4 weeks of your life it is overwhelmingly important to fill in those gaps and the words ‘thank you’ don’t seem weighty enough somehow ”¦
Thank you, anyway. Staff of the ICU and loving family together.
I’d also like to apologize. Remember that cloud-cuckoo land I mentioned earlier?
Hang in there because it gets a little odd from here on in ..! …
In between the various illnesses that were trying to bump me off, the sedation and analgesia needed to intubate and ventilate me and my own rickety grasp on reality, some very peculiar hallucinations took hold of my mind.
I went completely barking to be honest.
ICU Psychosis they call it. Bloody petrifying is a more apt description.
Apparently I kept yanking all my lines out – my wife says she had to sit on my chest whilst 3 nurses and doctors strapped my arms to stop me disconnecting my central line / Tracheotomy tubes / and the other stuff keeping me alive. I always an awkward sod and my heartfelt apologies to any nurse or doctor who struggled to stop me checking out permanently in their ICU!
I’m guessing Morphine, along with something like Propofol, Fentanyl, Benzodiazepines, the Legionella causing double pneumonia and the Status Asthmaticus, along with everything else going on caused my mind to fold in on itself sending me quite, quite mad (temporarily) ..
I was convinced a doctor (who didn’t exist) was trying to kill me off. I heard him with some nurses plotting to sell my organs on eBay when I expired. He kept injecting this jollop into my central line that made my legs go all tingly so I couldn’t escape. Of course I couldn’t tell my family this as a trach bypasses your vocal-chords. Plus he was nice as pie when they were around. The sneaky little hallucination. I wanted to call the police but every time I went for my mobile phone he zapped me in my ear with this device that blocks cellphone signals. Toying with me he was.
I don’t even own a mobile phone in real life. Weird.
After my wife and family left for the day he would do experiments on me by injecting chicken DNA into my line. He kept saying that it was cheaper than buying a dozen eggs and if I would just lay him a few he might not pop my clogs.
I remember him getting very ill-tempered as live chicken bantams kept coming out of me and not the eggs he needed for his omelette or Yorkshire Puddings or whatever he needed eggs so desperately for. Tesco opens 24 hours for God’s sake.
In the end he wore me down – the leg tingling ear-zaps, the hybrid rooster experiments, the 50 grand he was getting for my liver – I was beat I tell you. Knackered.
Anyway this went on, me trying to lip-sync desperate cries for help, asking my mother to call the authorities and him sneaking around with his plot to knobble me – it became like a bad episode of Columbo or Quincy. No wonder I kept trying to rip my lines out.
In between my loonytunes I also watched as a prisoner who’d escaped from Parkhurst broke into the ICU and ransacked the drugs cabinet, wheeled himself round and round the ICU on a wheelchair then promptly coded in a heap on the floor. Looking sympathetically at one of the nurses she remarked that they had to try to revive the bandit as it was ‘their job’ – I’d have left the toerag to it personally. I remember telling the doctor to hide the Christmas presents they had collected behind the counter before this villain got at them. I don’t hallucinate by half I can tell you.
So I am sorry. My mind created a nightmare – so vivid I could actually draw this imaginary doctor now, years later. It took me 6 months at home before I could even walk properly and 18 months to accept to myself that it was all just a figment of a badly damaged imagination.
There is a serious point to all this. I am genuinely and heartfeltingly grateful to the wonderful doctors and nurses who saved my hide and to the hospital for being there to save my life, despite my best efforts to damage myself.
ICU Psychosis is a well recognized phenomenon. One’s mind and body is completely overloaded. The lights, the noise, the constant activity, the drugs (and WHAT drugs! ), the illness and pain. The mind cannot take it and starts crashing. It reboots itself and ends up sitting in the corner, wobbling.
It’s terrifying to go through and I am still not 100% – part of me still wants to understand what happened but I guess I’ll never really know.
But thanks. Really.
You are all very special people.