I Had PTSD Following a Critical Illness. Apparently, That’s Quite Common.
The emotional trauma of a near-death experience induces ongoing physical and emotional symptoms in one-third of ICU patients.
Back in 2015, just a few days after I started feeling ill, and I was admitted to the hospital and received a diagnosis of septic shock. It’s a life-threatening condition with more than the usual 50 percent trusted Source mortality speed.
I’d never been aware of sepsis or septic shock before I wound up spending a week in a medical facility, but it almost killed me. I was lucky to have grown treatment when I did.
I lived the septic shock and fully recovered. Or so I had been told.
The emotional trauma of this illness lingered long after I got that the all-clear from the doctors who cared for me while I was in the hospital.
It required some time, but I learned that the depression and anxiety, together with other symptoms I experienced upon regaining my bodily health, were symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and so were related to my near-death experience.
Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS)Reputable Source, or even the set of medical problems that spring up after critical situations, isn’t something I’d heard about until 2 yrs into my battle with it.
But of the more than 5.7 million people admitted to intensive care units (ICU) annually in the United States, my experience isn’t odd.
- 33 percent of all patients on ventilators
- Around 50 percent of individuals who live in the ICU for at least one week
- 50 percent of individuals admitted with sepsis (like me)
Symptoms of PICS include:
- Muscle weakness and equilibrium issues
- Cognitive problems and memory loss
I have undergone every symptom on the list from the months following my ICU stay.
yet, while my hospital discharge papers included an inventory of follow-up appointments to specialists to my own heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs, my aftercare didn’t include any conversation of my emotional wellness.
I was told by every health professional who watched me (and there were many) how lucky I had been to have survived sepsis and recover so fast.
In the home, I researched sepsis, trying to pinpoint for myself exactly what I could have done differently to avoid my illness.
Though physical weakness can possibly be attributed to being sick, the morbid notions of departure and the nightmares that left me feeling anxious for hours later I woke up didn’t make any sense if you ask me.
I’d survived a near-death experience! I was likely to feel lucky, joyful, just like a superwoman! As an alternative, I felt fearful and gloomy.
Instantly after I was discharged from the hospital, so it was easy to dismiss my PICS symptoms as negative effects of my illness.
I was emotionally foggy and forgetful, as if I was sleep-deprived, even though I’d slept for 8 to 10 hrs. I had balance problems in the shower and on escalators, becoming dizzy and feeling panicked as an outcome.
I was anxious and quick to anger. A lighthearted joke meant to make me feel better could result in feelings of rage. I chased it up to this truth that I really don’t enjoy feeling helpless and weak.
Hearing”It requires some time to recover from septic shock” from a medical practitioner just to be told from yet another”You recovered so quickly! You’re lucky!” Can I better or not?
Lingering health problems caused by coming close to passing
But after my physical strength came back, the emotional negative effects prevailed.
A hospital room scene at a movie can trigger feelings of anxiety and lead to disturbances in my chest just like a panic attack. Routine things like carrying my asthma medication would make my heart rush. There has been a constant awareness of inherent dread to my daily routine.
I don’t know if my PICS improved or I simply got used to it but life was busy and full and that I tried never to think of the way I almost died.
Back in June 2017, I felt ill and recognized the telltale signs of pneumonia. I immediately went into the hospital and had been diagnosed and given antibiotics.
Six days after I saw that a burst of shameful in my head, just like a flock of birds in my field of vision. Completely irrelevant to my pneumonia, I had a tear in my retina that warranted immediate treatment.
Retinal surgery is disagreeable and not without complications, however, it’s generally not life-threatening. And my fight-or-flight instinct has been pushed all the way to flight manner once I was strapped into a working table. I was and asking a few questions throughout the operation, even while I had been under twilight anesthesia.
However, my retinal operation went well, also that I had been discharged the exact same day. But I couldn’t quit thinking about pain, trauma, and death.
Though those thoughts had decreased and I’d gotten used to the”new normal” of contemplating my passing when I did things such as getting routine blood work, departure was suddenly all I could consider.
It made no sense before I started researching PICS.
Getting aid for PICS
PICS doesn’t have a time limit and will be set off by any such thing.
I had been unexpectedly anxious every time I was outside my property, whether I was driving or maybe not. I’d no cause to be anxious, however there I was, so which makes explanations for the kids for not venturing out to dinner or into the local pool.
Shortly after my retinal surgery — and also for the first time in my entire life — I asked my primary care doctor about obtaining a prescription to help me manage my own stress.
Talking throughout my anxiety with a doctor I trusted undoubtedly helped, and that I had been sympathetic to my stress.
“Everybody has an issue with eye stuff,”’ she explained, prescribing me Xanax to take just as needed.
Just with a prescription gave me a peace of mind when stress might wake up me at the middle of nighttime, however it felt the same as a stop-gap step rather than a real resolution.
It’s been a year since my retinal surgery and 36 months since I was in the ICU with septic shock.
Happily, my PICS indications are minimal nowadays, in large part because I’ve been quite healthy within the past year and because I understand exactly the cause of my stress.
I try to be more proactive with favorable visualization and interrupting those dark thoughts whenever they pop into my mind. If this does not work properly, I’ve got a prescription as a backup.
Patients need further support from our health care system after ICU stays
In terms of coping with PICS, ” I consider myself lucky. My symptoms are generally manageable. But only because my symptoms aren’t crippling doesn’t mean I am not changed.
I put off regular medical appointments, for example, my mammogram. Although I transferred in 2016, I drive 2 hours every day to see my primary care physician every 6 weeks. Why? As the notion of locating a new physician fills me with anxiety.
Which causes me to wonder: If doctors know a large number of patients are likely to experience PICS, with the crippling depression and anxiety that often goes along with it, after an ICU stay, then why isn’t the emotional health part of this aftercare conversation?
Following my ICU stay, I went home with antibiotics and a set of follow up appointments with various health practitioners. No one told me was discharged from the hospital which I could experience PTSD-like signs or symptoms.
That which I understand about PICS I’ve learned through my own research and self-advocacy.
In the following three years since my past experience, I have spoken to some other men and women who’ve experienced a psychological injury following an ICU stay, and not one of them was warned or prepared for PICS.
Yet articles and journal studies discuss the importance of realizing the danger of PICS in both patients and their loved ones.
A post on PICS in Western Nurse Today recommends that ICU associates create followup telephone calls for families and patients. I obtained no more followup phone calls after my ICU experience in 2015 despite demonstrating with sepsis, that comes with a much higher odds of PICS than other ICU conditions.
ResearchTrusted Source points to your need for resources and support after hospital discharge. However, making sure the patient has the use of those activities is not lacking.
Likewise, people who’ve experienced PICS need to become informed regarding the danger in their symptoms getting actuated by future medical procedures.
I am blessed. I am able to say that even now. I endured the septic shock, educated myself around PICS, and sought the help I wanted whenever a medical procedure triggered PICS symptoms another moment.
Awareness, education, and encourage would have made the difference for me between to be able to fully concentrate on my recovery procedure and being plagued with symptoms that undermined my recovery.
As awareness about PICS keeps growing, my expectation is that more people can get the mental health care they want when they are discharged from the hospital.