My Return To ICU

My EMDR was proving to be effective. I’d had 7 sessions and felt in a completely different place. I was now able to walk through the hospital, almost skipping through the corridors! I found comfort in reminiscing about my time in hospital when I walked through certain areas or recognised staff. I’d gone from being a quivering wreck, unable to even cross the road to enter the hospital, to looking forward to being there! I can imagine it sounds strange to others when I say that I enjoyed being at the hospital, but it felt like home. It was the place I felt the safest…..it felt like it was where I belonged.

As my EMDR had been so successful, my psychologist suggested that a visit to ICU should take place. It would be used as a way to gauge how well my EMDR had worked and to give an idea of what else needed working on. In essence, it was to see if everything would stay in the box or if more things needed adding to the box. My visit would entail meeting with a rehab specialist nurse who would give me a tour of the unit, show me my bed space, and be there to answer any questions.

I was ready to see where I had been.

The day of my visit to ICU arrived and I was looking forward to it. Strangely, I was excited to see where I had spent all that time, excited to meet those who had cared for me. I hadn’t given a thought to anything else.

As we entered the unit, I hit that invisible wall once more. I was now sitting where my family had sat – in a waiting room surrounded by families who were doing what mine had done previously. I had an overwhelming realisation of what it must’ve been like for them. It must’ve been horrendous. Sitting there, waiting for news, waiting to be told they could go in and see me. I wasn’t ready for that.        The nurse came to collect me. Coincidentally, I had already met them via Twitter so it was lovely to meet them in person. They were absolutely lovely and everything you could want in a person. Confident, passionate, empathetic, and above all else, utterly selfless and caring. We were taken into a relative’s room, no doubt somewhere my family had been themselves. I couldn’t believe my emotions – I was so confident that I was ready for this, but I wasn’t! I was told that it was perfectly normal – I was about to face my demons so to speak, therefore it was only natural that I would be so emotional. We spoke about ICU, my EMDR, and what we would see on the unit. I was made to feel safe and told that if I didn’t feel comfortable at any time, I could leave. It was time to see my bed space…….

As we walked through the corridor, I asked the nurse about the mist and how it was sprayed from the ceiling. We stopped in the corridor and I was met with a confused expression! I was adamant mist was sprayed into the unit, I remember lying in the bed when it fell onto my phone screen getting it wet. The nurse smiled and very kindly replied ‘there is no mist, we don’t spray mist from the ceiling’…..and paused. We laughed because it sounded silly, but once again I realised it was yet another delirium. There was no mist and I probably didn’t even have my phone!

We entered the unit and what struck me was the sense of calm. It was completely different from the ward – it was cool, calm, almost serene. I didn’t recognise any of it, it looked totally different from what I remembered, but I now know that what I was seeing at the time wasn’t reality. We walked towards my bed space, the nurse talking to me all the time. She stopped us and asked us to listen for a minute, to hear the sounds. It was all so familiar. My bed space wasn’t how I remembered it. There were windows behind and my bed was at the very end of the ward, next to the doors onto the unit. Things from my deliriums began to make sense – the automatic doors opening, shapes of machines, colours, sounds etc. It was strange to see someone in what would’ve been my bed. I was utterly respectful of their situation but I couldn’t help thinking that they looked how I must have looked – Completely unaware of what was going on around me; tubes, lines, machines keeping me alive. What must I have looked like to my family, to my daughter? It must have been terrifying……… but I do know that the staff would’ve looked after them and that puts my mind at rest.       As I looked around I began to recognise faces and although everything was fuzzy and nothing like I remembered it to be, things began to feel familiar.

I was introduced to the nurse who wrote most of my diary entries. It was like being introduced to a film star, I don’t think they quite understood the reason for my level of excitement! It was wonderful to meet the person who had put so much time and thought into writing those invaluable diary entries. They had no idea how it had impacted me and helped me in my recovery. Thanks will never be enough.

As the ‘tour’ came to an end and as I became more settled, I was given my #rehablegend badge and I shrieked with excitement!! #rehablegend is a campaign created by the same super awesome nurse who showed me around ICU. It exists to celebrate anyone who supports, enhances, or facilitates rehabilitation. It promotes rehabilitation, gives inspiration to healthcare professionals, and allows patients to achieve great things. It’s an honour to receive the badge and I wear it so proudly.

It was great to return to ICU. As strange as it sounds, it wasn’t the same place I’d spent 13 days….because during those days I was somewhere very different thanks to Delirium and being in a coma. Seeing someone in my bed space made me acutely aware of what it must have been like for my family to see me lying there. That is trauma; sights, sounds and thoughts that never go away. Families receive little or no support in helping them to understand and make sense of what they’ve seen and been through……. perhaps that needs to change.

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