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Inside the world of the intensive care diary
3:00pm Thursday 25th October 2012 in News
HELPING with recollections of Tibetan warriors, yellow elephants and aliens is just one of the additional roles staff on the intensive care unit are taking on to improve patients’ recovery after being on the ward.
Nurses at Warrington Hospital have been writing diaries for patients being ventilated to help clear-up distorted memories of their stay on the unit and explain their treatment.
Sister Heather Harvey said: “We know patients who have critical illnesses can suffer badly afterwards with anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder which can have limiting effect on their lives afterwards.
“They find it hard to know what they have been through and have suffered from nightmares that they can’t wake up from.
“The diary helps them realise how far they have come as critical illness can take up to two years to recover from.”
The patient diaries record what happened before the patient was admitted to ICU, as often patients can not remember, as well as daily treatment entries.
Family are also encouraged to write in the diary to give them something to focus on as well as keeping the patient up-to-date with football match results and family events.
They are then invited back to see their diary three to six months after they have been discharged from hospital to read the entries.
Patients have reported life-like hallucinations including being captured, tortured or kept a prisoner due to a combination of their critical illness, the medication they are on and sleep deprivation.
Thanks to the patient diaries they can go away feeling reassured knowing the aliens they thought they had seen were in fact the sound of machines on the ward or the boat they thought they were trapped on was probably due to the mattress shifting to fit their body.
Heather, who helped start the diary service in March 2008, added: “Some people come through intensive care unscathed whereas others can feel like they’re going mad.
“The diaries can be quite harrowing to read but there’s no point doing it if it’s not truthful.
“If the consultant says there’s a poor chance of survival, as horrific as that is, it’s important it goes in to paint a picture and fill in the gaps during treatment.”
PATIENT Dave Betts was admitted to the intensive care unit after losing 18 to 23 units of blood through a serious nose bleed.
The granddad-of-two said his diary helped him hugely after he suffered from nightmares so horrific he thought they were real for months after.
The 62-year-old from Appleton spent 12 days on the ward in January this year after it is thought radiotherapy cancer treatment 30 years ago may have weakened the blood vessels in his face causing the nose bleed.
The former police officer, who has been married to his wife Glenys for the last 41 years, said: “After I collapsed I was out of it and in a coma most of the time in ICU so the diary told me the procedures I went through.
“It’s a great thing to have your family write a diary too and my wife recorded the first time I showed signs of recovery which was when a recording of my grandduaghter Orla telling me to wake up was played and led to me opening my eyes.
“It was nice to know all the support my wife had through the personal diary when I was in hospital too.
“Without all the help I would not have been here and it was amazing how the staff in the hospital and paramedics dealt with it so quickly.
“I still have flashbacks thinking about things I thought had happened to me.
“I can’t tell you the worst nightmares because I wouldn’t want to relive them. They happened close to home and were horrific.
“I had one where I was in a party on a ship and then everybody left me in a darkened room. I was trying to shout to say I’m still here but they had all gone.
“The diary helped me to realise how close I was to not coming out of the coma.
“It filled so many gaps and I’m so pleased they did it for me because it’s so important.”