Critical Care – Step 1 of 4 to going home - Part of Picking Up the Pieces Mondays
I started to “wake-up” – I do not recall exactly what my first thoughts or feelings were – but at some point I remember thinking “where am I – and why can’t I wake myself up from this nightmare?” At some point it started to become clear that I was not having a dream, the pain and confusion as to where I was and I why I felt this way – was actually quite real. I tried to speak, but no sound was coming out. I would later discover this was due to the tracheal intubation tubing that was coming out of my throat and helping me to breathe. This trach would also become the obstacle to getting me to the next level of care.
During this time – I was completely at the mercy of the nurses for all my needs. From monitoring my life saving equipment to bodily function needs. Looking back now I often wonder how I made it through this time. My sister tried to make it and keep me as comfortable as possible; from emptying bed pan when there was no one available to come and retrieve it; personal grooming – to pleading my case for polish on my toes (yes, all else was escaping and failing me, but the fact that the polish on my toes had been removed – did not. Perhaps, looking back now – it was my attempt to retain some part of myself, as all else no longer felt like me, though I don’t think I was consciously aware of this yet.) Yes, I was allowed to have polish put back on my toes – and was delighted when the x-ray technician commented - I was the only person who ever came from CC with freshly polished toes.
The road to moving from CC to Intensive Care was paved with good intentions, but I would have to be off the ventilator for at least 24 hours with no incidents ( I had to breathe on my own) it took a few attempts before I would achieve success. Breathing on my own was as equally painful as when they were suctioning out the trachea to make me cough up stuff to clear my lungs. Apparently it was equally as unpleasant an experience for those who had front seats to the process as it was for me– to them it was like I was going into convulsions, I was later informed.
Eventually tubes were removed and I graduated to a “ trach plug” – for the hole in my throat. By holding a figure over the “contraption” as I called it – I was able to speak and be heard – though I sounded much like someone who had inhaled helium. This of course did not give me an instant pass out of CC.
What I want to share with others;
Night time is a very lonely and most unsettling time. If you know someone in CC – please try to not leave them alone for any prolonged period of time and try to be on time in the morning. For me, if visiting hours started and my sister was not there – I would go into a big panic and anxious state until the nurses were able to locate her.
Many people feel when their loved ones are in the hospital –they are being taken care of; to this I say – there are some very terrific nurses , I was extremely fortunate to have some of these nurses care for me. I will forever be grateful to the nurse that took the extra time to wash between my toes (I can’t tell you how that small gesture made a world of difference to me); the nurse who wore a protective apron and held my mangled arm as I was in for an MRI (without her help it with would have extremely painful to hold up my shattered arm); the nurse that recommended my sister ask the black dead, skin around incisions on my chest bone be debrided… these are just a few examples of the great beyond the call of duty treatment I received.
Unfortunately, to every good there also is a not so good – balance they call it. I still get shivers every time I think about the nurse that threaten to put a bag or diaper on my behind if I continued to ask for the bed pan – that night my bowels were starting to move; then there was the nurse that left me on the bed pan for over 45 minutes (the man across from me had a digital clock above his bed – in CC they need to know the exact time in case you die – there are no walls, just curtains and they are drawn open); Oh and let’s not forget the midnight nurses that were very disturbed by my request to keep their personal conversation down- as I was trying to sleep… this list also goes on.
Know that the person in the bed no matter how much they look like they are OK – they are not, it is our human instinct to not want to look hurt, confused, depressed etc. – showing these may somehow make us appear weak in the eyes of others. Keep visitors to immediate family and those extremely close to the person – no one wants to be on display, especially when they have just gone through hell and back. If your loved seems to get stressed out when you get ready to leave at the end of the day – try and figure out why. Do not dismiss any claims they may try to voice – I’m not saying to jump the gun here – but take the time to carefully examine things.
Learn proper Etiquette for visiting patients in hospital - it will make your visit more enjoyable, especially for the patient. Here are a couple of websites that offer some wonderful tips on this matter: I wish that some of my visitors had been given this list to read, before visiting.