It’s been more than year of a really stressful pandemic, that has made millions of people sick, many of them being admitted to the ICU, and many dying.
ICU’s are more full than they ever have been before, creating impossible workloads for many ICU staff.
I’m having a hard time too. Sometimes it feels like my heart will just burst of sadness and other times I’m so agitated that small things like the ever growing pile of laundry seems so monumental that it’s unsolvable.
The world is falling apart, with political changes and undercurrents, outward proud racists seem to be increasing in numbers, mass shootings, and many other things splash across our news screens everyday, making the world seem hopeless, and ending.
When I got out of the ICU, I typed in the hashtag #ICU into twitter, and was introduced to the wonderful world of tweeting ICU staff. So many of you were so kind and generous with answering questions, and many of you followed me back.
When I started this blog, you read it, retweeted it, liked my tweets and responded to my tweets. You let me know that what I was saying was important, and you listened.
Thank you. You helped me to emotionally heal a bit (not all the way yet).
I’ve been trying to think of a way to give back to you, during what must be a very stressful time for you. It’s stressful to be in the ICU, and to have family in the ICU, but it’s also stressful to have a suddenly increased workload, be wearing so much PPE that you look like space martians, and then be told that Covid is all a hoax, the hospital’s are empty and you are lying about that workload.
I have always wanted to help people with this blog. Improving the ICU for those that come after me is the very reason I write it. I admit that each time the viewership goes up, I get a little emotional energy jolt, but that wasn’t the reason I started it. It’s also not the reason I haven’t given up on writing it, even though my life has gotten harder. I feel guilty that I’m not able to write in it as much as I used to.
Hopefully this list of good things that happened in the ICU and in the ward after the ICU makes your load a little bit easier to carry and your heart smile just a bit for just a while.
1.) I am alive. I did not die in the ambulance when I stopped breathing. I did not die on Christmas day when I crashed.
2.) I was so out of it. I knew that occasionally there were people who stood at the end of my bed and talked, but I didn’t know who they were or what they were talking about. I thought maybe they had their staff meetings there.
One day my nurse leaned over me and said “the doctor’s are going to be doing rounds soon. They will stand right there,” she pointed, ”and they will talk about your case. You can listen because it’s about you. You can also ask questions if you want to.”
3.) I couldn’t speak because I was still intubated. I asked for paper and wrote “I’m sorry.”
My nurse looked at me and asked “Why? You didn’t do anything wrong?”.
“I’m sorry for being racist.” I wrote.
“When were you racist”, she asked.
“When I sang racist songs to you.” I replied.
“You weren’t racist. You didn’t sing anything racist. You can’t sing. You can’t even talk. You have a tube in your throat that prevents that. You’re writing this down to me right now.”
“Oh”, I wrote, and leaned back.
She didn’t say I was the worst person in the world, because I was racist, which I feared she would. She didn’t laugh when it was obvious I was talking about something that didn’t happen. She continued to treat me very well, without resentment. She was one of the best nurses I had and I really really liked her.
Note: This will make much more sense if you you read My ICU experience in chapters, on this blog. There you will see that under sedation I didn’t know if I was male or female, and didn’t know if alive, dead of in purgatory (I’m not even Catholic). It was a complete loss of self, including my believe I was the worst person in the world who was a racist, and was so bad, that the doctors decided to keep me in a permanent coma to protect the nurses.
Although my nurse didn’t know this, and the apology made no sense to her, she didn’t take this apology the wrong way, and I am very grateful.
Over the days after I woke from sedation, her face became a reassuring symbol that I was safe in her care.
4.) When I was sedated, and totally out of it, a nurse washed, and braided my waist length hair. She even put her own scrunchies and barrettes in my hair to make me “look nice”. That touched my parents so much that they told me about it several times.
To be perfectly honest: It’s not waist length anymore. I got it cut to be layered and about 6 inches shorter about 3 weeks ago and it still seems really short, although to others it’s probably still long.
5.) When I asked for information on twitter, you tweeted me studies that answered my questions. I needed to understand and I wanted to tell the world about what the ICU was like, and you helped me to do that.
6.) When I tweeted asking about the long term effects of sepsis which I got while I was in the ICU, you told me about the UK Sepsis Trust, where I got all the information I needed.
7.) An ICU doctor told this joke “An ICU doctor went to a conference. His wife was worried about being lonely when he was gone. He told her to get something to keep her company while he was gone. When he came home, he found his wife in bed with another man, and yelled “A dog, I meant you should get a dog to keep you company, not a man.”
Yep it’s a corny joke, but it and all the other corny jokes he told made me smile. He started each day with a corny joke that made everybody laugh, and I’m sure he didn’t realize his patients heard him, but I did, and it brightened a part of each awake days there.
8.) I have started many tweets with “As a patient, I”. You considered and respected one patients point of view. Thank you.
9.) I laid in my ICU bed. A nurse took a Christmas mint out of a pile of Christmas mints and put it in her mouth, before coming to my bed and leaning over me. The smell made me want a Christmas mint, which I love.
She must have realized this, because she walked to the garbage and spit it out, before coming back to me.
That small kindness, did not go unnoticed
10.) I wanted a pen and paper almost as soon as I woke up from sedation, and I was freely given a pen and as much paper as I wanted. I still have those notes that I wrote about what happened under sedation.
Hopefully this brightened your day a bit. It brightened my day to write it, so much that I continued after 10 and wrote 20 things.
I will post the first 10 now, and the next ten when I have time (hopefully tomorrow).
If this made your smile, and helped you please help other people by tweeting good things that happen in your ICU, with the hashtag #GoodICU and / or sharing this blog post in any way you can.