I know, I know, I let you down yesterday. Had I not given up apologizing, I’d tell you I’m so sorry. You’ll just have to trust that I was conducting important volunteer business.
While you were anxiously awaiting my words of wisdom, J. and I were participating in a video that will be used for ICU training. The multitalented communications guy/videographer, the kind and supportive manager of the ICU, and Jess, my Cancer Centre volunteer “boss”, congregated at our house for the event. I baked, of course. I couldn’t help myself.
I jumped at the chance to participate in this venture when Jess raised it a few months back, but I needed J.’s involvement too. Really, we were both in the ICU for 13 days, even if I was the only one with a bed. J. also recalls that time much better than I since I was a wee bit looney tunes, for lack of a better term.
If we can do anything to make someone else’s health-care experience easier, why wouldn’t we? My body’s a lemon but I can still make lemonade, at least sometimes.
As we told the crew, J. and I thought we were experts in hospitals and doctors until I landed in the ICU. J. believes the “smart kids” work there, and I concur. Those “kids” kept me alive. J. likes to say that I was too stubborn to give up the fight. (FYI: J. doesn’t often consider my stubbornness a positive attribute.)
Despite the exemplary care I received, I unfortunately only have bad memories. I was scared and disoriented, and I didn’t understand why I was there. I could not tell day from night because all my windows faced indoors. I had visual hallucinations from the drugs I was on. The experience was traumatic for me, but my disorientation buffered me from the worst of it.
Although I thought I knew everything there was to know about J.’s experience of that time, I was further enlightened yesterday. For example, I learned J. was reluctant to leave me alone because, however disoriented I was, I started fussing whenever she let go of my hand. I believe the ICU was much harder on J. than me because she had to watch me struggling. Half-full-cup gal or not, at times she feared the worst.
I also described the short- and long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive consequences of my ICU stay. Ever heard of PTSD? Did you know it’s a common consequence of time in the ICU? Immediately following my discharge, I had nightmares and heightened anxiety. To this day, my motor skills are impaired–I’m always heading for a fall–and my ability to handle stress is poorer. I cannot think on my feet as well as I once could, and my attention span is shorter. I am more impatient and easily frustrated.
I appreciated the opportunity to talk about the experience with others who understood, despite having to revisit the trauma. (Of course I’d say that; I’m a psychologist.) Yes, our discussion was upsetting, but it was also healing.
J. and I have grown closer since this time, but, sadly, she’s never again commended me for being stubborn. She’s pulled out her hair, maybe, but never praised me. Oh well, I can’t expect her to appreciate all my finer attributes.