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.

Passive smoking……what does it mean???

apart from death?

I cannot count the number of posts I have done about smoking, passive smoking, the smoking ban and how it effects my lungs and the lungs of many others like me.

It really hit me the other day after parking my car in the carpark at work and walking the 200m to get into the hospital how many people I had to pass firstly at the pedestrian crossing, then the pavement to get to the narrow walkway to get inside the doors and then the narrow walkway itself and the doors was just like running a gauntlet and taking your life into your hands.

24….thats how many people (patients) I had to pass who were smoking on the short 200m walk. It is sickening to have so many people.

Im not sure those who are smoking really understand just what the effect is on other people as there is no way to liken it to anything else. I can never explain the mental and physical negative effects that it has on me (and Im sure I am not alone in those thoughts).

The fear I have is unreal. I am terrified that this is what may happen AGAIN

Both these photos are from the effects of passive smoke which hit me when I was no expecting it. The first photo was just before going to ICU after spending about 8 hours in resus, getting stable, moved to assessment unit to then get bad and need ICU. The second was taken in ICU after someone smoking below my open window and me having an asthma attack.

The fear of having asthma attacks is like no other. There are theories that you can make someone run up stairs with a close peg on their nose and breathe through a skinny straw to simulate what it is like to not be able to breathe but they can always take the peg off and open their mouth.

In the photos above I was so tired I just wanted to give up and stop fighting but you cant. If you give up you risk being intubated or dying. This is the reality. So many people die from asthma attacks that come from triggers that are out with their control. It feels like you are being punished for something you didnt do. It is more than just the attack itself but the consequences that go with it- being off work, missing holidays, medication that causes side effects, family being so worried about you, family needing to look after you to name a few.

Before the ban on smoking there were visible smoking shelters and it never used to be a risk to just get from your car into a building. I am not saying that everyone used the smoking shelter but a majority did and the risk was greatly reduced which matters so much.

My biggest fear in life is having an asthma attack, so imagine being faced with your biggest fear on a daily basis multiple times. It seriously makes me wonder if working is really worth the risk. I don’t know who to speak to about it. I blogged about it, tweeted about it, spoken to my union and will just about tell anyone who will listen. I love my job but it is getting to the point of weighing up risk and reward especially with being on a new treatment. Can I really justify the expense this new treatment will cost the NHS vs exposing myself to a major trigger everyday and risk attacks which could jeopardise the success of the trial.

Anyone who can suggest or make a difference to the smoking obstacle course I face please let me know (I have tried using other entrances but this is an issue at other ones too). as I am desperate now.

 

The Intensive Care Unit

I have written often about being admitted to intensive care or the high dependancy unit or being reviewed by critical care staff and it always something I have just sort of dealt with and not thought to much more about it. That was until last night. I couldn’t sleep for tossing and turning thinking about how many times I have been in ICU or HDU or had the threat of going there.

Why all of a sudden has it bothered me??

Yesterday was the first meeting of the Critical Care Patient and Public Involvement Group (which I will write more about in a post of its own). A room full of patients who have been in ICU or their relatives, Drs and Nurses from ICU and then researchers whose area is critical care.

Naturally when you have a group of patients together you are naturally going to ask how you are linked with the group and I guess what your story is. In the discussion part of it there were 2 other patients who spoke of their experience being in ICU and how it was awful, the worst time of their life and how the Drs and nurses saved their life because their life was in their hands. It was a traumatic experience for them and they have got through it. I heard the saying “surviving ICU” a lot.

“Surviving ICU” was what bothered me and kept me awake. I think maybe I under estimate how bad my asthma is or maybe how sick I get or how dependent on medical staff I am to get me better. I know that my asthma is severe and I know there are many more hospital admissions, HDU admissions or ITU admissions ahead of me and I think i sort of accepted this maybe. It was not until that group discussion that I realised just how traumatic it is, life threatening it is, and how it is not run of the mill to go in and out of critical care. At the time I was able to keep my emotions in check but when I got home and set up my nebulisers that it really hit me. The other people in the group had a one off experience, this is what ICU is meant to be like ideally a never experience but if it is going to happen then once is more than enough not once or twice a year sometimes more.

In my working life you hear about people going to intensive care, its not looking good for them or statements that you mainly go out ICU horizontally not vertically. I think for me I have always come out of ICU so would never dwell on the experience of being admitted. I cant say it is a pleasant experience not being able to breath and having the most toxic drugs that make you feel horrendous to make you better but it gets better, I go to the resp ward recover and get back home. It is how it goes and has been for the last 14 odd years.

So after that meeting and hearing others speak about ICU it has almost given me a fear. In the back of my mind I know there are only so many times you go to intensive care or high dependancy and get out but so far I always get out and sometimes bounce back but then get out again. I think it is the emotions that I could see on the other patients faces when they recalled their experiences that it hit me that maybe I don’t have the right emotion to it. The fear they had and the gratitude to the Drs for saving their life was clear to see. Its not that I don’t appreciate what the Drs do but I guess I just never wanted to admit that Im going to intensive care because its the safest place and I might just be that unwell that action needs to happen quickly. Every attack I have I am terrified that it might kill me and that asthma may just win the battle and Im sure I have surpassed that thought as it is very over dramatic and im young so it won’t happen but seeing younger patients have that fear of death and the unknown.

I have never really expressed my fears of my asthma to those close to me. I try to give the outward opinion that its fine, its life, its been long enough now I should be used to it. I would like to be able to have a conversation with people about asthma and death but would worry they think I am just being over dramatic and its never going to happen. Maybe I should though as a comment  that occurred really hit me and made me think about how those close to me feel and thought about my asthma and health. Recently a very close friend died, my mum was away, I was home but she read a text out loud and said “oh my god she’s died”. My step dad thought it was me that had died not the friend. This really hit me that if they hear something about someone dying they go to me and think it is me. I try so hard to keep well and take my medications etc but its still not good enough. I always knew they worried about me doing to hospital but never thought about the dying aspect of it.

What I find so difficult and I think it includes the whole critical care thing is that in the past I have been rogue with managing my asthma. I was young and didnt understand it and didnt want to accept it so I would increase medication so I could do something only to crash and burn and end up in hospital. That changed after a consultant had a go at me (they were just stern and didnt mess about but i felt awful so took it worse than had I been well) which I well and truly deserved but I stopped messing about and accepted not being well and accepted what I could and couldn’t do. The point I found so hard was that despite this change in behaviour and management I was still ending up in ICU or HDU but not having the good bit beforehand which I had before. To this day I still really cant accept the ICU or HDU admission for nothing. I get it if I was to go and play a game of football have a bad asthma attack and need critical care- I deserved it, I did something my body cant handle but now I try my best and still end up going there and that is the hard bit. Where before if I hadn’t been doing anything attacks would mean hospital and a respiratory ward where now it is resus, critical care and then respiratory ward. With this development what happens when it gets worse……

Lots to think about.

How do you get used to to living in a state of instability?

You don’t….

I like my life to be quite ordered. I like to know what I’m doing day to day, week to week. Many think I am stuck in my ways but I like routine. Routine gets me through, it means I know where I am. Recently I have found my asthma has been not to bad but the last month I would say it has been teetering on a knife edge. Never quite knowing when things are going to tip but desperately hanging on.

It is that very difficult period where your just sort of suffering. The nights are long and a little frightening as my asthma always gets worse at night. I finish work at four and have often been in bed by 6 using my nebulisers but just exhausted from getting myself through the day without getting sent home or worse ending up in A&E. Part of me wants to just hold my hands up and admit defeat but I can’t. I have to keep going.

If I am honest I feel alone just now. I sort of feel like I am on my own with this horrible condition even though I know Im not. I have lost a lot of my vital support networks which I didnt realise I heavily relied on even when my breathing is good. Matters out with my control have meant that to protect myself I cannot show true self or leave myself vulnerable to others, in doing this I am protecting myself but I am also isolating myself and I hate this. I loved being part of the support groups being able to help others and receive help and support myself too.

I really hate asthma just now and how little it is understood.

If only it could go away or a cure could be found soon. I try to be strong but today I can’t be. Today I want to hide in my flat and curl up in bed.

One of the other things I hope that by just not doing anything this weekend is that I still have a massive fear of going to A&E again. The fear of not being listened to is still fresh in my mind and that resulted in me going to intensive care because a nurse thought he new best, I was young and was not that bad. I hate to think what would have happened had I not had my own nebuliser with me and had I not know my own chest. I mean even with my own actions I couldn’t stop myself ending up in intensive care and this really terrifies me. I fear that I will end up being looked after by the same nurse again, it may be an irrational fear and the chances are slim but it is still there in my mind at was was already a scary time and it was just made worse. As a result there has been times when I may have had to go to hospital but did because I just stayed at home and would do back to back nebs- maybe more than I should have but the fear was paralysing and I can’t explain that fear to anyone.

I have to look at the positives though. I have had the most amazing summer doing things I never thought I would have. I made some awesome friends and played more lacrosse than I could have dreamt of so while I don’t feel great I can sit and look at the photos and memories of the summer and smile knowing that with hard work I will be able to do this again!!

No wonder asthmatics don’t go to hospital early!

One of my previous posts I titled as the most terrifying experience. At the time I thought it was, but sadly it was not and last week it went to a whole new level of scariness.

I had not been discharged long but I needed up needing to go back to hospital.

It all started well. I was seen in resus and after a few hours was stabilised with IV Magnesium, IV Salbutamol, IV Hydrocortisone and lots of nebulisers driven by oxygen. All was going well. My care plan was being followed and all going well. Maybe a little to well!! Coming out of resus was where it all went downhill and led to the worst time I have ever had.

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Being moved from resus to IC/HD is always a good move so when they said I was moving I was happy. It meant I was getting better and on the road to recovery. This was not the case this time. There was a plan in place for when I was moved. To continue on back to back nebs to keep on top of my attack but this was not done. I had to wait an hour and a half and ask over 6 times to get a neb to be told by a nurse I was fine and he was too busy and would come back to be later. By this time my blood pressure was rising my heart rate was rising and my oxygen was dropping. This was not the time to say I was fine and he would come back to me. I felt the nurse didnt think I was ill. I thought he thought that because I was young I would be ok. I was not ok. I was terrified. It was harder and harder to breathe and I thought by going in early I would be seen early and be back out again. I kept asking for nebulisers and not getting them. writing it like that makes it sound like I was unhappy because I was not getting what I wanted but it was far from it. I was desperate for a neb. My chest was getting tight and I really couldn’t breathe. On top of that I was scared and thinking all this stuff about what might happen. Eventually I got to see a Dr who questioned why I had not had the nebs etc I was meant to. I felt relief at being given a neb but also because I thought the plan would be followed again.

I got two nebs but after that it all slipped away again. I tried to tell the nurse about my care plan but was told he didnt need to see it and wasn’t his concern. I kept asking for nebs but was being told he was too busy. I am sure he was busy but all the times he told me he was busy would have taken up more time than actually giving me a neb and the amount of time he had to look after me in the long run. I ended up using my own supply of nebules to treat myself as I felt so scared and want to get better. By this time I had had enough. I tried to get up so I could get dressed but I fell and really hurt my knee but at this point a combination of lethargy, fear, tiredness and the effects of the asthma attack were taking their toll and I decided it was time to self discharge myself. It was rash but I felt it necessary. It got the attention I needed and the Dr came over to see me with the nurse in tow. I also ended up being reviewed by intensive care. I told the nurse that this was all on him and if I went to ITU or had a prolonged admission it was on him and I strongly believe it was. His attitude was horrible and it has made me really question going into hospital and getting help. If I saw him again as I came into A&E I would refuse to go in as I really thought I may not get out of A&E in his hands.

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After falling and threatening to self discharge I was moved through to the assessment unit where I was in such a state they wanted to give me lorazepam to calm me down. Thankfully the Dr had been filled in on what had happened and knew I just needed out of A&E and I would be ok and they were right. The rest of the admission was fairly uneventful but I shall blog about it another time.

I wanted to concentrate on my experience in A&E. I have had so much time to think about it and the consequences of it. A few years ago the national review of asthma deaths was published highlighting the shocking statistics of asthma death and admissions to hospital. From this I tried my hardest to make sure I was very proactive with my treatment and get help quickly to as to make asthma less of a killer than it is. How can we do this if asthma is not taken seriously in hospital where it is meant to be safe and you are meant to be looked after.

I am lucky in that I have been to hospital a lot and luckily never had such an experience and I knew what I needed. What would have happened had I been new to asthma or not known what was happening. I was able to self medicate to make sure I was ok but others may not have been so lucky and the statistics would just get worse. 

The support I have received from Drs, and the respiratory nurses has been fantastic and I have had the help to come to terms with what has happened and also will get the help to put a complaint in about the treatment I received. It is important that feed back is given because if I have been so scarred by events imagine what someone else could have been. They may have taken themselves out of A&E and died from not getting help for their asthma. Its important to get the message out and get people to see how serious asthma is.

I have never made a complaint to a hospital about the treatment I received but I feel this time it is so important that I do for a number of reasons. I was still trying to come to terms with my previous hospital admission and how I went down hill so quickly in a safe environment, I also had lacrosse trials of Scotland and it was my 30th birthday which I had a number of plans for. All of which I missed as a result of the poor care I was given. I may be unfairly putting all the blame on one person and that person being the nurse but to me it is no
t unfair. The way in which I was spoken to and the lack of respect and care I was given has left a huge black mark and really scarred me. For my own sanity I need to deal with this and make it known what happened and what is being done to resolve it.

It will take a lot for me to get my confidence back and feel safe going to A&E again. I know I will have to go back to A&E at some point and the whole reason I do everything about raising awareness for asthma is to changes opinions of asthma and get people getting help early by taking it seriously. If I don’t feel confident and don’t go to hospital for help then I am a hypocrite and should stop doing all the raising awareness and campaigning I do.

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As you can tell this has left a really black mark on me and I will get over it but it will take time. I do want to add that as a nurse myself I do understand how busy days/nights can get and we can’t do everything the patient wants us to do but when you see them laughing and joking and talking about nights out standing round the computer it is fair to see and hear they are not as busy as they are saying and when I see them as a patient doing this it makes me really angry.

I would hate to be in this situation again which is why I am going to share it with everyone I can. I could have gone home but I managed to stay and ended up receiving some of the best care I have had and did get better. I was not able to trial for lacrosse, or be at home for my birthday or go to any of the planned meals etc but I am now home and will enjoy that.

For now I will continue in the work I am doing to make sure that asthma is taken seriously and awareness raised.

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Signs vs Symptoms

After my last post about pulse oximeters and oxygen saturations some of the comments were interesting and not surprising.

One of the most common things you hear when having an asthma attack is “your sats are fine your ok”.

As a nurse your trained to look at signs first and then symptoms but often we look at the signs and judge a patient by them rather than the whole picture. Which as a patient I know is so frustrating. Especially with asthma you feel so awful as not only you cannot breathe but you are scared and tired and often being told your fine is really hard to hear and can make you feel worse as you have altered judgement due to the situation so it will often make you think they won’t do anything to help your breathing.

I wonder if there is a way we can communicate with nurses and doctors to say that we know our sats may be fine but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel absolutely awful, scared and would like something to help alleviate that. I am wondering about using a cue card type of thing which we could show to the nurses and Drs when they are telling us that our oxygen sats are fine and we are ok. During this time speaking is very difficult so a cue card might be easier to communicate our feelings just so they can understand. I have found that once nurses and Drs understand how I feel they are more sensitive about what they say to you. There are many more ways in which you can be told your sats are fine and are ok without the patient ending up feeling terrified or over reacting afterwards.

Some examples might be:

I know you are really struggling but a good thing is that your oxygen levels are good just now but we will keep an eye on them.

or

We will give you some medication to help with your breathing and make it easier. Your observations look ok just now but we will keep an eye on them while your chest settles and breathing becomes a bit easier.

This is just an example of what I thought could be said but I am sure there are many more ways it could be said.

As a nurse looking after patients and trying to get help from them I have found it hard to get them help when you can tell by looking at them something is not right but their clinical signs are all ok. When you call for help from a Dr you will go through a series of questions many of which are about signs a patient is displaying not what your gut feeling is and that they just don’t look right. Often by the time their signs match your gut feeling the patient is much sicker than before.

It is a real balance between not over reacting and acting as needed. In a way I am privileged as I have seen it from both ways. I am both a patient and a nurse and hope that my experiences as a patient reflect how I conduct myself as a nurse.

All consuming

What do you do when everything you hate in life is everywhere you go??

This is what my asthma feels like just now. It doesn’t even leave me alone when Im asleep. I get woken up coughing, wheezing and gasping for breath. When Im awake its the same. I try to blank the tight feeling in my chest, or the low whistle that seems stuck in my head but it is ever present in my chest just now. When you have a bad day you can run away, hide in a darkened room and leave your fears and stresses behind but as I run into a darkened room my fears and stresses follow me and sit right next door to me. I just can’t get away from it.

Many ask me why I get involved in the research centre so much if my asthma bothers me so much but that is exactly why I get involved with AUKCAR so much because for asthma is everywhere and if I can use my experience to the benefit of research and others then fewer will have to suffer a life dictated by asthma.

Even if I was not putting my experience to good use I would still be all consumed by it as I can’t get away from it. If not away from the asthma then I still have the side effects of the medication used to control my chest. It is just never ending. One wish I would really like just now to to get away from it. But even that can’t be done. I often think if I do nothing then i won’t feel the effects of shortness of breath or being wheezy but even when doing nothing I find I need to reach for my inhaler or get woken up needing relief. It feels like my lungs hate me as much as I hate them.

I am on the count down to seeing my consultant on Monday. I am filled with apprehension, excitement, nervousness, and a slight bit of fear. I guess I want so much to change and hope for something to change but am very scared that there will be no change.