4 years ago this was my routine as locked-in ICU patient:
- Morning: Every morning very early around 5-6am, a nurse would come to collect my blood samples. I had a central line in my neck and hand (until today I have souvenirs where they were-I call them my War scars😝🙉👊💪 and I actually have more of those but I’ll come back to that). Few samples would be collected EVERY morning, and the laboratory would then collect them. When I heard the sound of high heels approaching I felt a huge relief because that was my psychologist coming to see me, which meant that it was morning (7am), and the night was over! The nights were the worst, because I couldn’t sleep and was so uncomfortable. Scared, praying it was morning already 🙏. Every night… At least during the day more was happening, at night the place was dark and very quiet. I couldn’t let anyone know I needed to change position, or move, so I just kept waiting with my eyes wide opened 👀. I was locked inside my body, so the psychologist would talk, while I just listened. She was a little bit mad, always dressed colourfully with heavy makeup on. I mean pink lips, green eyeshadow, the whole shebang 😹 (the Irishness in me is coming out now, using this “sheabang” expression 🙈🙉🙊). I don’t remember all of our sessions but she did a lot of relaxation, where I would close my eyes and she would read out a piece, painting a picture for me to imagine in my head-like imagine you are on a beach hearing the waves…I tried! But unfortunately I was far away from being on a beach 🛏 she also talked a lot about angels. I loved that part🥰! Overall she was a very positive person that made me feel better, but most of all she would keep me occupied for about an hour. I looked forward to that the most. When she left it was quiet again, which I hated. I was always a person that loved socialising and company…my friends would describe me as “life of the party” 💃🥂, so this situation was very different. I probably needed company most while laying in that ICU bed…Around 9am the nurses would come in to do my morning care and get me ready for the eventful day ahead, by eventful I mean that many things would happen, not like to a healthy 23 year old (going to work, driving, meeting friends, eating dinner, even things as simple as going to the toilet by yourself or walk places), but to a 23 year old ICU patient…Everytime the nurses would turn me during my morning care I would vomit, because the tube I had inside my throat (that I had since being intubated-used to plug in the respirator) would irritate me, causing gag reflex! That would always be a great start to my day 🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️. Sometimes the nurses would change the bed sheets, but then they would have to move me around, so I would vomit again and the bed sheets would have to get changed yet again 🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️. At the very beginning I would just get bed baths, because of all the tubes I had attached to me-I mean everywhere🙉🤦🏻♀️…My hair would get washed using this special cap that the nurses would put over my head and as you started moving the fingers the cap would start releasing shampoo. It would be then rinsed over a basin, with me laying flat on the bed. When I was all washed and changed my feed was plugged by my main nurse, who would take care of me for the day. That’s what was great about ICU, the care was very personal and patient oriented. I always had my own nurse for the day, and I knew them all very well. They were so lovely and caring, but that fairytale quickly ended, once I was moved to a different ward. The good news about that was that I was in a stable condition but the bad news is that then a real nightmare began (but I’ll come back to this in later posts). I had nasal feeding tube, since I wasn’t able to swallow anything. I was receiving all liquids through that. I had multiple syringes on a special stand beside my bed, they were constantly pumping into my bloodstream. As I mentioned before to this day I’m not sure of everything that was in them. I just know there was some blood thinners and probably some mood enhancers too…every time one of these syringes would become empty, the machine would make a beeping noise and a nurse would come into my room to refill it straight away. After my morning care and everything plugged in and refilled I was by myself again…waiting…My physiotherapist would be the next person I would see. She would usually come around 10-11am and do passive exercises with me. I used to really like her because she was very positive and passionate about her job. She would always turn up the volume on the radio💃 and try her best to communicate with me. She was always telling me how much she loved her job and she would spend a long time with me, moving my every limb one by one in great detail, never rushing. Before leaving she would always spray some perfume on me saying “us women need to smell nice” smiling! 👌😍☺️. I loved the fact she didn’t treat me any different, and believe it or not even though I was nill by mouth, we always had conversations…she would talk, and I would blink!
- Afternoon: From midday I would just lay there alone staring at the wall and that clock⏰every few seconds, looking forward to my dad and Mr P coming to spend the day with me. Thank God the radio was on, because the silence would just kill me. I always loved music, and somehow hearing the music or the radio host made me feel like I wasn’t alone📻! When I could hear the front door open and then the sink running, I was so happy. They were here! 🤗 Mr P would always come in first with a huge smile on his face as soon as he seen me. My dad was the next person to enter 🥰 always giving me a kiss on the forehead/cheek. I felt so loved by them and so happy to have them there. We developed a special way of communicating, so sometimes we wouldn’t even have to use the letter board. For example I would just blink really fast if I felt too warm, so Mr P or my dad would wet a cloth with cold water and put it on my forehead, changing it every few minutes. I guess it really is possible to “understand someone without words”🤐-it’s not just a saying… They were keeping me entertained and learnt how to do basic care, like suctioning (which had to be done pretty often), asking the nurses to empty my catheter or repositioning me from laying on my back to being on my side and so on. Getting me a little more comfortable! In the afternoon around 4pm, I had a private physiotherapist coming to do a one hour session with me. In that time Mr P and my dad would go out to the nearest shopping centre, sometimes restaurant to get something to eat. I absolutely hated seeing them leave and would always ask them via the letter board to be as fast as they can, making them promise me that they wouldn’t be long. Usually they would be back just as my session was finishing, but sometimes I would wait for them, counting down the seconds again⏰. I just couldn’t bare being alone…Usually they would come back with fancy freshly squeezed juices🥤,one for me too. They would feed me bit by bit with a small syringe onto my tongue, but I was hardly swallowing anything. I was so jealous looking at them being able to drink, even if it was just plain water. I was always observing them, wondering if I’ll ever be able to do that again… I really missed feeling the different tastes…🥺
- Evening: In the evening Mr P and my dad would just sit there with me, anytime I needed something I would look at them and blink, so they would grab the letter board, pen and the notepad. They would also do some passive exercises with me, because I needed my legs to be moved. When my mum was in Poland she would also be there with them all day. She would work on my feet-doing some reflexology or read to me. The first book that she was reading to me was “The Secret”-I would try to take it all in, and I loved hearing the successful recovery stories. I think that without even realising, subconsciously that book was keeping me hopeful and positive. The rest of my family would come to visit me some days for awhile, always trying to make me smile. Mr P set up WhatsApp group chat with my girlfriends back in Ireland and kept them updated every day. When it was getting late and it was time for going to bed, usually around 11pm, my dad and Mr P would position me to sleep and literally do everything before leaving and turning my light off. “Goodnight, sleep well! We love you and we will see you tomorrow❤️”. Probably every time they left the room I would shed a few tears😢🥺. Don’t get me wrong I felt very safe in ICU, the staff there were great and very caring but I felt lonely and terrified, having strangers care for me. Sleeping there instead of my own bed, staying in that room alone for the night, knowing that my family are together in my grandmother’s house, having food and drinks before going to their comfortable beds, was the image I had constantly on my mind…really wanted to be there with them!
- Night: I couldn’t sleep for the first few days in ICU, until I was prescribed sleeping pills-that I would beg for. I would just keep my eyes wide open 👀 and stare at the wall. The room wasn’t pitch black, I had a little wall lamp on, for nurses and doctors that would come in during the night to fix something or check on me. All the machines and monitors around my bed had little lights on at all times anyway. Sometimes I would be lucky enough to fall asleep but I couldn’t tell for how long. I can’t really tell if I was sleeping or just imagining with my eyes closed🤷🏻♀️. Funny story that I’ll never forget – every time I was dreaming I dreamt about going to the big Tesco near to my house in Ireland, with a big trolley to the drinks isle, and put every type of bottled soda in my shopping trolley🛒. Lucozade pink, Coca-cola, 7up, orange juice, you name it…and I would go back home and pour myself a huge pint glass of each drink with ice, downing one by one, one after the other😂🙉🙈. I would always wake up very thirsty 🤤 the nurse would make me raspberry tea and feed it to my mouth when it was cooler through a small syringe💉 . Most of it would just flow out of my mouth, since I didn’t know how to swallow, made me cough a good bit too, but it was worth it. Even just feeling it on my tongue. Other times when I would open my eyes I could see the night doctor smiling at me, with a stethoscope around his neck, looking at the monitor, at all my OBS(observatory machines)-like blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, oxygen concentration in the blood, etc. I also remember having this sensor clipped onto my ear, I don’t know what that was for but anytime it fell it would start making a noise. Usually someone would hear it and quickly come to put it back. One night it fell from my ear and started making this loud beeping noise, but no one was coming. I also remember there was a camera facing me, so that I could be observed from the nurses station. That night I would keep blinking at it very fast, hoping to get someone’s attention…unfortunately I didn’t. So I would just lay there, that noise getting to my head 🤕 after a long time a nurse was passing by my room, heard it and came in to fix it. Ugh what a relief! That time I could really appreciate the silence…
🦋 There’s nothing stronger than a broken girl rebuilding herself…🦋