My Florence Nightingale

A few nights into my stay in ICU, I remember an enormous feeling of agitation. It was dark – I was alone. The man in the bed next to me was snoring and I remember thinking ‘why can’t I sleep like him’! My head was spinning, with so many deliriums going from one to another. Those stories are for another time but I want to tell you about something.

I was in a dark, cold place. The occasional person would walk past my bed – I would call out but nobody would come. I vividly remember calling for help, even shouting or screaming, asking for anyone to come and speak to me. After what felt like hours, a person appeared out of the darkness. She was a coloured lady, with very short black hair, wearing a white top. She was kind and asked me what was wrong. I remember feeling anxious and breathless. She stood by my bed; leaning on the side rails and spoke to me in a quiet voice.  She then walked away obviously assuming I was settled but I felt my anxiety grow once more. Machines, noises, surrounded me and I was frightened, sweating, my heart racing. I began to call out again, looking in the direction from which she came. She returned – she could tell that it wasn’t me making myself anxious, but my deliriums – playing havoc with mind. She pulled up a stool and sat down. She held my hand and stroked my hair whilst talking to me softly, reassuring me and telling me that I was safe. I began to feel relaxed, my breathing slowed and my heart stopped pounding. After a time, I felt sleepy, relaxed and the nurse left me  – but not before telling me that if I needed her again, to ask for her.

I know that this happened to a certain extent as it is recorded in my ICU diary……’Louise had a disturbed night and was very agitated’. It was terrifying and the images I was seeing were horrific.  But the nurse did what all nurses want to do – to care for people. That’s what a role in healthcare is all about, isn’t it? Ultimately, you ‘sign up’ to care for people, to help people’.  

In the current situation of COVID-19, I know that many patients will go through intensive care. Many will leave intensive care and continue their recovery in hospital or at home. I know that the care they will receive will be outstanding. Yet many will experience a form of delirium, potentially exacerbated by staff in protective clothing or from being cared for in a non-hospital environment (NHS Nightingale for example). Nursing staff may not be able to care for patients in the same way due to restrictions or time – they may not be able to sit with someone who is severely agitated and allow that person to see their calming smile. It will be incredibly hard on both sides of the fence. I’m not sure how I would’ve coped had I not been allowed visitors or had the type of care I received from staff. BUT – I do know that we are so incredibly lucky to have the NHS. I know that they will do everything they can to care for patients, to support them in their recovery and to hold a hand if it is time to pass………

The NHS and its staff will ALWAYS be my heroes.

CHAPTER 1. Loomings

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

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