Trauma of ICU

Finally I am able to sit down without getting upset or terrifying myself about my latest hospital admission specifically experience in ICU. The photo below may not look like much and you may think its a window and building but this is what has caused me to much trauma.

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Before anyone reads on please note this is just my feelings from it and my experience. The staff: nurses, support workers, physios and Dr’s were all fantastic and could not do anymore to help me.

This admission has rocked me so much. A lot more than any other has and I hope that I won’t ever get like this again.

There was a series of events I think which led to it all becoming too much once I got back to the ward and I guess basically I just broke down with fear that my asthma will kill me.

The lead up to being admitted was really rapid, as I said in my previous post where I spoke about the admission and how it went broadly speaking. What I didnt speak about was the true mental toll it took on me.

As with any trip to ICU in the back of your mind you know its not good because ICU is the end of the road in terms of hospital care you cant get any more treatment beyond what they an offer. I have been to ICU so many times, I cant even count the number of times I have been admitted there and come out the other end.

Once up in ICU there was the usual battle of trying to get a arterial line in which again failed and we decided to stop short of a cut down thank goodness as this caused me to lose the feeling in my left thumb and part of palm. High flow oxygen running various IV infusions and I had this feeling of being safe. I was in ICU and would be ok. Next came review from the consultant who said if things did settle next step is being intubated and ventilated.  I have had the said to me several times so I didnt think much more about it.

It was not until I came back to the respiratory ward that mentally I really found it tough. After starting to feel much better and access being an issue I was keen to be weaned off some of the infusions I was on. This didnt go to plan and a few hours after I really didnt feel to great so I let them know. Junior drs came to review and were concerned. It was late on in the day and about 7pm my own consultant came round to review me- that in itself freaked me as he was not even on the ward team but he came through. He wanted everything put back to the previous doses, have a whole load of nebulisers and be moved to the high care bay for close observations.

It was the move to the high care bay that brought so much flooding back and I felt that I just couldn’t cope at all. I have been in the high care bay before and never had any issues. I already felt quite on edge because by this point I had been seen by 2 consultants out of hours who came to listen to my chest and see how I was, have all my medications increased again and being moved. The move was what was enough to tip me over the edge. Once moved and settled I looked up and out the window and could see the ICU. The photo from above is below and I have marked where the ICU is.

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The combination of what the consultant said in ICU, and then getting worse on the ward and having consultants review me when they would not normally see you come in to review you and then seeing ICU again and the Dr’s talking about taking you back there was just too much. I think it was also because on the ward I was on the maximum treatment for my chest and just not getting better. The consultant was worried because I had been given 36mg of salbutamol via nebulisers with little effect. Thankfully they kept persevering and my airways did slowly start to open and breathing became easier.

Its fine when you are acutely unwell and everyone is buzzing around you making sure your ok, listening to your chest, giving you nebulisers, doing your observations you dont get much time to think or worry about not being able to breathe. Its once your that bit better and left alone and normally left with the parting words- “rest and try to get some sleep” and the lights go out. That is when it hits you. Still feeling not great and still finding breathing a real challenge sleep is the last thing you are able to do. Its a very strange feeling when you are so exhausted you want to sleep but scared to sleep at the same time. Being in the dark makes everything much worse and I just got so scared. I couldn’t help but break down. I was able to speak to a nurse but they could not offer much as its not like there is a magic pill that makes fear go away and because of my chest not being great they cant give you anything to help you sleep. At night with less staff around at night they don’t have the time to stop and speak to you and make sure your ok. but at that time it was all I wanted. They did then send a nurse practitioner up who was great but even he said that the psychological support at night was awful and as nurses we are not good at dealing with things unless numbers tell us something.

Over the course of that night as my chest came and went some nurses kept coming and saying to me all my numbers were looking better so I am doing ok. I think this is one of the statements I hate more than anything. I don’t care that my numbers may be ok or better I still feel like crap and having good numbers does not help with the crippling fear I am experiencing.

Once morning finally came around I felt really stupid for getting so upset but was able to have a chat with the Dr about it. I knew it was a vicious cycle of being upset, makes my breathing worse, which makes me more upset as I get scared it means going back to ICU but it is so hard to get out of that cycle.

The fear of what happened is still plaguing me. More so than normal. I can rationalise going to ICU and the need for their help but this time is just different and I cant get it all out my head.

I am a week out of hospital now and really feel like I am no further forward than I was day 1 post discharge. Everything feels just as hard. I have no idea why. Part of me wonders is it because of the biologic therapy that is making it harder to recover or has this all taken a much larger toll on me than I expected.

I have clinic next week and I hope to go through everything with my consultant and make sense of it all. I also hope he will have a reason for me feeling so rubbish despite being home from hospital.

I think this whole thing has just highlighted that no matter how many asthma attacks you have, or how many hospital admissions you never know when you will hit breaking point or when you just cant keep fighting.

Happy Birthday NHS

Today 69 years ago the NHS was created. A vision of the government and Clement Attlee which would provide a unified health service available to all. The campaign and implementation was spearheaded by Nye Bevan who can be quoted saying:

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I really do owe everything to the NHS and it is scary to see how the Conservative party are really making some difficult choices and actions which are really putting stress on the NHS which is a health service already on its knees.

It is a huge compliment to Scotland whose health service is by no means perfect but reading tweets this morning which said the Scottish system should be the road map for the health service in England, with that being said in newspapers headlines were slating the Scottish health services and hospital due to the number of beds being blocks and operations being cancelled. Its tough to see as I am both a service user of the NHS and employed by the NHS. I have also had experience of the NHS in England and there are huge differences which could be down to those who run the systems- the Scottish Government and British Government.

As an employee of the NHS I must say it is a fantastic organisation to work for. I have been very fortunate in my treatment by the NHS, I have a pension with them, receive a wage and have the support of colleagues but it is so hard to sit back and watch as wards are under staffed with not enough nurses, drs, domestics, care assistants and everyone is run off their feet all the time trying to cater for the needs of everyone else but not able to take the time out they need. NHS nurses have been subject to a 1% pay cap (along with other professions) which has crippled a lot of nurses who have families, mortgages and just trying to cover their bills. The 1% cap being lifted would make a huge difference because it would not only makes nurses lives more comfortable but it would be their effort recognised and help them feel valued in what they are doing.

As a user of the NHS and dependent on the NHS I really value them. I have gone from growing up in Scotland where because I was in school and under 18 I got free prescriptions so didnt need to rely on anyone for my medications and inhalers. I was guaranteed to get them no matter what. I then went to living in England being self sufficient and having to budget to include my growing medication list. At the time the cost of a prescription was £7.20 per item. It has gone up a huge amount now but this was about 10 years ago. I was on a huge number of medications and often needed multiple prescriptions of certain medications. It became a budgeting nightmare. I was fortunate that I was able to buy a pre-payment certificate so for £110 every year I was able to get all my prescriptions covered with it. Now living in Scotland prescription charges were scrapped which for me has been a real benefit as I have so many medications and currently have 32 regular items on my repeat prescription which is the medication I need every day. While free prescriptions for me are great I can imagine them being abused for some people who will go to the GP for something and get a prescription rather than spending the money themselves. A number of medications which people get on prescription could be things which can be bought over the counter but because they are free on script they go for that option putting more stress on the GP system.

I have also had some outstanding care from a variety of medical professionals. All hospitals across the UK have been great. The care I can’t fault especially when I was in hospital in Winchester and having my consultant from Southampton driving up after he finished work to review me as we were struggling to get control of my asthma. It is things like this that stick in your head and you won’t ever forget. Its also nursing care too. I can remember being in the resp ward Shawford Ward after coming out of ICU but finding it hard to breathe but being too terrified to go back to intensive care, but a nurse from ICU came to sit with me and go through why I didnt want to go back and reassured me it would be ok. She didnt have to do that but she did and it made a difference. It too sticks in my mind and when looking at the prospect of going to ICU I do think about that time. Not all hospital experiences are good and there are times when you do have bad nursing or bad medical care but its going to happen when services are stretched to the point of breaking.

It is scary to think that we really could be facing a time without the NHS. Im not sure how I would survive without them. They have been there to pick up the pieces when my asthma has kicked off. Looking at some numbers a night in ICU costs £2000 approx. I spent 4 nights earlier this year. I wouldn’t be able to afford that if the NHS is privatised. £500 approx for a night stay in hospital. I was in hospital for 3 weeks earlier this year. I would need over 1/2 a years salary to cover my hospital stays not including the added extras like x rays, bloods, IVs, drugs, food to name but a few.

I owe my life to the NHS as do so many other people but with so many people abusing the NHS and going to hospital for a sore tummy or headache, or cut finger when not needed is crippling the service. As a nurse I can’t say to people why did you bother going to the hospital because this could have been dealt with at home, we have to smile and provide the care we would give to other patients and hope their Dr will discharge them when required so the bed can be opened up for someone who really needs it. I often question going into hospital and calling an ambulance. If I can I will drive myself to hospital but am often told I was stupid for doing that and should have called an ambulance because people who were a lot less in need would call them but I feel if I am able to get myself there thats what I should be doing and if I can deal with my asthma at home then I should and do all I can to stay at home so to ease the burden on the stretched heath service.

Please stop and think if you do need the GP, or hospital or prescription. The NHS is on its knees but as a country we wouldn’t be able to survive with it and healthcare would not be accessible to all as it is now.

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