Icu Ptsd? Is This Real?

I relayed this story in the asthma section, but I think I may need to be here...I'm not sure.

I had an asthma attack (the mother of all asthma attacks) on 9/29/10...As for the day it happened, I have only a vague memory of struggling to breathe, then no memory of this event until one week later. I learned what happened based on what others have told me, plus copies of the EMS report and hospital notes.

At any rate, my husband came home and found me in severe respiratory distress and cyanotic. So, he calls an ambulance and they carted me off to the nearest hospital. My O2 sat was 53%. I was in respiratory failure. I was intubated in the ER, placed on a ventilator and in a drug-induced coma. I spent a week in ICU before I was weaned off of the meds and ventilator. Then a couple more days in the ICU and another week in a "regular room".

I know this doesn't even begin to compare to what many of you have been through, but I have not been the same person since this happened. I've been severely depressed (anti-depressants not working), I often think of the nightmares and hallucinations I had while under whatever psychedelic, LSD-like drugs they had me on...the repetitive noises of all of the machines in the room...awaking to find myself bruised severely (I can only guess I was combative in the ER) and restrained to the bed like little Regan in "The Exorcist". I was delusional coming off of those meds...pissed off over things which never happened, etc., etc.

I should be thankful that I am alive, and sometimes I am...other times, I wish that doctor hadn't "tried so hard". Why can't I get over this? Heck, the most traumatic part (at home and in ER), I don't even remember!!! I've read something on the internet about ICU PTSD...does this really exist???
JulesInBmore JulesInBmore
51-55, F
2 Responses May 16, 2012

Those darn repetitive tone machines almost drove me mad ... how do they expect me to rest with all that noise. I didn't until I went home. Its like listening to a truck backing up continuously all day long Urg!!! I told my doctor I can see how the military uses sound to drive the enemy crazy. Its happening to me!

Totally agree! It's like psychological torture! Thanks for taking interest in my story...

Sure, no problem. Its nice to know it wasn't just me who found this maddening.

I don't know if such a thing as ICU PTSD exists, but I do know that it is very possible to have PTSD from traumatic medical experiences. PTSD isn't so much about what specifically happened to you, but the way your body and mind cope with it. We all have different thresholds for trauma and what impacts one person to cause PTSD is not the same as what would impact another person. You do sound as though you have been deeply impacted by your experiences, and they sound like they would be scary and overwhelming for anyone to go through. One of the markers of trauma is if your life is in danger or you had reason to believe as though your life was in danger and it sounds like that meets the mark. I hope that you find someone to talk to about this and get some help. :-)

Thanks for commenting, shosh15...I suppose I'm wrong in thinking that one day this is all going to disappear and I'll be over it. I've never been to a psychologist or therapist before...

Therapy isn't scary, and it isn't a sign of being weak. It can be tremendously helpful if you find the right therapist. I know I would be in a very different place right now without the therapists that I've seen over the years. You would want to find one who has experience in working with trauma, and potentially a clinic for people with chronic illnesses if you have one near you (They are just starting to recognize chronic illness as something that therapy can be really helpful for so they can be hard to find). Trauma therapy is about taking time to build up trust between you and the counsellor and then helping you process what you have experienced so that it isn't so scary and big for you anymore. It can take a lot of work and sometimes the memories and fears will get worse before they get better, but you learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of surviving in the process. If you find the right match, it can help more than you might think!