19 things you didn’t know about my time in ICU

19 things you didn’t know about my time in ICU

  1. I played Risk the night before I went to hospital with a fever and an unknown infection in my Hickman catheter. And I won! I took over the world the night before my whole world changed forever.
  2. The last memory I have before life-support was begging for more pain-killers. That was five days before I was placed on life-support. I don’t remember anything until waking up a month later.
  3. I spent 31 days in the Intensive Care Unit that summer in 1999, 24 of which were on life-support.
  4. The night I was intubated, my dad and brother held me to my bed as I fought and tried to pull the tube out. After a prolonged period of struggle, Dad asked me, “Have you had enough?”
  5. My dad took over writing updates to my email group while I was in ICU. He wrote three messages with updates, asking for energy, prayers, thoughts, and notes that he could read to me. It was helping me and those close to me.
  6. I had many docs, nurses, physios and others care for me while I was in ICU. My dad kept a record of all of them and wrote a daily journal to track my setbacks and progress. Dr. Mary O’Brien cared for me as much as anyone; she was a very kind, thoughtful, and smart doc who wore hard-soled shoes. My family came to connect the sound of her walking up the hallway with updates and tough news.
  7. Two days after I was placed on life-support (a.k.a. intubated), my lungs started to bleed uncontrollably. My dad came in for his early morning visit and found respiratory techs madly suctioning blood from my lungs. I wasn’t expected to make it; my family and friends were called to the hospital, and then for some reason (including lots of medical care), my lungs stopped bleeding early that afternoon.
  8. While I was in a deep, drug-induced coma, I dreamt of the war. I had lost my troop while fighting in Asia. I walked to the top of a mountain under the cover of brush but had to come out to get a view of the valley in hopes of finding my troop. When I did, a bunch of soldiers jumped out and filled my chest with bullets. When I shared this dream with my family, they told me about my lung bleed, which I was unaware of at the time. They also told me those respiratory techs were of Asian decent. Crazy!
  9. Months after leaving the ICU, I went to see a psychologist, the same one who had diagnosed me with ICU psychosis as I prepared to transition out of the ICU to the cancer floor of the hospital. She felt that I likely had that war dream around the time of my lung bleed. I agree.
  10. August 13, 1999 was a Friday. I’ve always loved Friday the 13th, being born on a “13th” helped, I’m sure. It was a good day for me at a time when I didn’t have many.
  11. My family tried to make my ICU room familiar and comfortable for me which included my best-buddy’s little sister’s stereo to play my music (she’s now my wife), but they wouldn’t play John Mellencamp. As deep as my coma was, Mellencamp always got my heart rate up!
  12. As I regained consciousness, I struggled to grasp where I was and what happened as I had no memory of my decline in ICU, being placed on life-support, or of the rollercoaster my family and friends had been on. For the first day, I was still intubated thus I couldn’t talk. There was no system in place to help me communicate; we would create one the next day. This left me inside my confused, tried, ICU psychosis-induced mind, trying to create a story.
  13. When I woke up, I couldn’t understand how it was August. I went in hospital early on July 25. I didn’t understand how I missed the Great Big Picnic and George Street Festival.
  14. After waking, while still intubated, the docs advised that I have a tracheotomy to help transition me back to breathing on my own. I agreed without having any real idea what they were talking about. My mom asked if there was a way I could avoid it. I had to start breathing entirely on my own, and at that point the machine would breathe for me if I “forgot” or wasn’t able.
  15. “Show him what he has to do. Explain it to him,” asked my mom. I had to keep my oxygen saturation above a certain level to avoid getting a trache. They turned the monitor so I could see it. I focused on that monitor with everything I had throughout the evening and night (which may have been for two minutes given the state I was in). The next day, the doc came to take me to the OR for the trache and gave me one last breathing test, which I passed. My tube was out within an hour. I didn’t have a voice yet, but it was another big step.
  16. My dad solved the voice issue by printing a big alphabet and bringing in a whiteboard so I could spell words. Is anyone surprised that as my awareness grew, I had lots of questions and was demanding to be back in charge!?
  17. The first sentence I spelled was “I want to go home,” which was met with a very sympathetic round of “ohhh, we know you do.” The very next thing I spelled was “I want a root beer.” I had to wait on that and settle for a few popsicles to ease my throat back into things. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything for a month.
  18. Later that night, the overnight nurse thought it was a good idea for me to have hospital orange juice to drink. Save a few popsicles, this was the first thing down my throat after a month. I had a drink alright and immediately blurted out “that tastes awful!” It did, and my voice was back!
  19. When I woke from my coma, I couldn’t physically do much of anything for myself. Breathing was a HUGE accomplishment but everything else had to wait. My body took energy anywhere it could find it to fight my infections, including my muscles. I knew how to high five my brother and give my mom a hug, but I had no strength to do either or most anything else. Having to rebuild from the basement lead me to focus on taking my first steps. Reaching that milestone lead me to Climb Signal Hill for the first time in 2000 as a way to mark that anniversary in my recovery.

On September 23, 2018, Geoff will take part in YACC’s 19th Annual Climb, raising funds to help young adults live with, through, and beyond cancer through digital, local, and national programs. 

Register here and join him!

 

 


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