30 October 2008

ICU

The next morning on 6 September at breakfast-time we got a call from the hospital to say that Greg had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. He had developed a chest infection and they were also worried about his neurological state, so they wanted to monitor him more closely. We couldn't understand where this had suddenly come from. The night before we had left him reasonably fine, apart from being unable to walk and withdrawing from alcohol. Kay and I visited him straight away. He was not a pretty sight. He was in a single bed bay with a nurse specifically assigned to him watching over him 24-hours round the clock. His chest was heaving visibly and he was obviously having difficulty breathing. He had an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. There were lines and tubes going in to him for antibiotics, glucose, insulin and saline. He had ECG pads all over him attached to a heart/blood pressure monitor. He was catheterised. None of that particularly phased Kay or me.....we are made of strong stuff and have always had an interest in things medical anyway.

However, what was more distressing was his state of mind. He was clearly very agitated. He seemed to know who we were, because he called me by name to come over to him, while I was still trying to discuss with the nurse the reasoning behind moving him to ICU. He was convinced there was a television in the room and wanted me to turn it off. Despite us telling him there was no television, he became very agitated and insisted I hand him the remote control. There was nothing in the room that resembled a television, except a window on the dividing wall between his bay and the neighbouring patient's bay, so the nurse went and closed the Venetian blinds to that window, hoping that would satisfy him. But still he insisted there was a television there that he needed to turn off. It became very evident he was hallucinating and such was his distress that he tried to get out of bed to turn it off himself, tugging the lines and tubes that he was attached to. In the end, after several failed attempts to reason with him, either assuring him there was no television there, or humouring him by pretending to switch an invisible one off, the nurse gave him a sedative and he slumped instantly into restful sleep.

Shortly thereafter a team of doctors passed by and I was told by a senior-looking doctor that they were monitoring his neurological state. His apparent agitation might be to do with the drugs he was on, or the fact that patients often get distressed in hospital, particularly in ICU, or it may be to do with the alcohol withdrawal. Time would tell. Meanwhile they were giving him antibiotics for the chest infection. I had assumed he had bronchitis, as he had had it often before, being a smoker. Nobody corrected me otherwise.

I visited him in ICU for a whole week thereafter. For most of that time, he seemed sedated. He barely opened his eyes, when I used to arrive. He would manage a few words, but his speech was very slurred, then he would drift into sleep again. He always had an oxygen mask on too, though his breathing seemed more relaxed and regular. It was only after he had been in ICU for a week and then been transferred to one of the medical wards that I discovered he had been suffering from aspiration pneumonia - a type of pneumonia contracted by inhaling liquid, such as when a drink or vomit goes down the wrong way, ends up in the lungs and attracts bacteria. It transpired he had vomited that first night in hospital before he was transferred to ICU and that had caused the pneumonia. The pneumonia had made him very ill indeed. After all, some people die from it and, before antibiotics, that was generally the outcome. Greg was very weak anyway from the alcohol damage and, it would seem, he was now fighting for his life.

13 comments:

aims said...

This brings back memories of my father. He aspirated vomit when they anesthetized him for an emergency operation. He had to be transferred by ambulance from a small hospital to a large one and into ICU. It was hard going for quite a while.

I never understand why doctors don't sit down family and tell them everything. We need to know for our own health.

blogthatmama said...

It's amazing what the body can take, isn't it? He must have felt absolutely terrible.

Millennium Housewife said...

Rosiero, I can only guess at how you were feeling about this. Is it taboo to suggest sometimes you wondered if death may be a way out, for you all? I don't know, and I don't mean to suggest ever that you would like Greg to die, simply that sometimes prolonged suffering can bring strange thoughts. Hanging in there with you, I wish I knew you and could pick up the phone. MH

Stinking Billy said...

rosiero, you are *so* strong, but you still deserve all the moral support you get from us. x

Stinking Billy said...

rosiero, you are *so* strong, but you still deserve all the moral support you get from us. x

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hospitals have so little understanding of alcoholism in this country. He probably needed weening off the drink and apart from his more obvious symptoms is more than likely suffering withdrawals. Hang on in there darling.

Ellen said...

This is such a sad story to read. Thank God you have Kay. It is heartwarming to know how you support each other during this terrible time. You surely deserve a wonderful daughter like Kay.

Flowerpot said...

Surely the hospital realised that Greg was/is an alcoholic????

rosiero said...

Flowerpot - yes, they knew and were also giving him something to help with the withdrawal symptoms, but they didn't know if the confusion he was exhibiting was alcohol withdrawal or something else. Now, in hindsight, they think it was the delerium from the pneumonia!!

Cee said...

Ooo Rosiero
x

Gill - That British Woman said...

I wonder why they didn't tell you that in the first place?

Gill in Canada

April said...

That's all terrible, but I have the feeling he is looked after ... So you have to trust the doctors. Perhaps he is in good hands and they can help him. (Never give up hope.)

Ladybird World Mum said...

Rosiero, have just arrived at your blog and want to say heartfelt thanks for writing what you have. About your husband, about Obama, about your halloween night, about your cul de sac, etc. I send big blog hugs and will send up a prayer or two. You have guts, girl.XX