A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Different perspectives

I was talking to someone the other day about how much I dislike ITU, even though I know it's often the place I need to be. Having spent so much time in the Intensive Care Unit of my local hospital I know most of the staff pretty well, and they me. They know how much I dislike ITU, and will try to keep me on the respiratory ward for as long as they can and for as long as is safe, because the stress of going 'downstairs' has the potential to worsen an asthma attack. It's a risk to keep me on the ward, but as I'm known so well to the staff then it's a calculated risk, but when talking to this person earlier in the week, she said that I should get used to ITU. Something inside me squirmed when she said this, and on thinking about it more I think it'd be rather shocking if one truly got used to ITU. It's a distressing place to be for several reasons: There's the noise; the plethora of machines that can feel as though they're taking over the environment and your whole being; there's the fact that you're so poorly that you're in need of the place, and it's generally indicative of the medics' concern that you might not survive; and you are surrounded by others in the same position, although with very varied conditions. The bed-spaces in ITU are much bigger than standard, to accommodate the multiple machines and the multiple medics and nurses that so often surround you, and they also tend to have benches that separate each bed-space. Because of this then you have a certain degree of privacy from other patients, which is much appreciated when everything else is so public to all others in the unit, but if you are conscious then you are still aware of what's going on in the bays around you. By the nature of the Intensive Care Unit, patients are very poorly, and often what they're going through is distressing, and does sometimes include death (although, of course, I've come across death on multiple occasions on the normal wards too). Should one get used to this situation? Would it be right to accept this as a normal state of affairs? I can accept that I will sometimes need to be there, but I don't think I will ever get used to the trauma of the situation and all that the place entails. I don't think I want to ... it seems wrong to do so.

I once heard an anaesthetist tell either a junior doctor or a medical student that one in four patients who go into ITU will die there. Although not all that surprising, given the nature of the unit, it is still a shocking statistic, and also shocking that the anaesthetist should say this whilst standing in the middle of the unit where any of the conscious patients (many are on life support so not conscious) can hear. This statistic now rattles around my head every time I go down to ITU, and I also know that having been in ITU on countless occasions that I have been lucky to beat this statistic so far. I'm sure that my 'luck' will run out one day and that the statistic will catch up with me. I know that everyone must die at some point, but I don't want to die in ITU where everything is so impersonal, everything is so mechanical, and everyone is so used to death.

No, I don't want to get used to ITU and all that it stands for. Is that a bad thing?


living_with_ba said...

Hi Becky,
My name is Joey, I'm a type one brittle asthmatic (as well as some other conditions that have put me in a wheelchair) I'm 26 and was reading your blog and thought you might be interested in reading my blog - http://livingwithba.blogspot.com/
and joining my charity website: http://www.livingwithba.org/index/

Both are aimed at other BA's so if you're interested have a read/join etc.

Wheeze free hugs

BeckyG said...

Hi Joey,

One of my hopes for my blog was that it would reach out to others with brittle asthma (amongst other people), so it's great to see you here. I'll certainly take a look at your blog and your website too. Thanks for pointing me in their direction.

Take care,