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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
Delusions of an intensive care patient
A stay in intensive care distressed the patient
A stay in intensive care can distress the patient
As a study suggests 10% to 20% of intensive care patients develop psychological illnesses during their stay, BBC News Online tells the story of Neil, who became unable to distinguish between dream and reality, believing he had entered his own stomach.

Neil was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) for treatment for Crohns disease.

The twenty-two year old was due to have intensive abdominal surgery and expected to stay in hospital for around four weeks.

But five days after the operation, the incision for the operation ruptured and he required emergency surgery.

He remained on the unit for 80 days - and for 55 days his condition was thought to be life-threatening.


He was convinced he had entered his own stomach

Research paper
But after 60 days, Neil was referred for psychological because he seemed withdrawn and despondent.

He had been having extremely distressing dreams and was often unable to distinguish between his dreams and reality.

He believed he had "visions inside my tummy" and was convinced he had tried to re-arrange his lower bowel and intestine.

He said he was convinced he had entered his own stomach.

Drawings

In an attempt to convince him otherwise, doctors asked him to draw his insides and describe what he had "done" to himself.

Then a surgeon reassured him his experience was not real and his drawings inaccurate.

Neil was moved into a single room on a surgical ward where noise was limited and a day-night cycle was introduced.

Doctors had to talk him through what had happened while he had been sedated, until he could remember what had happened from one day to the next.

News of the day

He was also told what was in the news and what had been happening in the fields of music and cinema - areas which interested him.

All this was to try and give Neil back his "lost days".

He had also shown signs of depression and on two occasions had tried to remove needles giving him intravenous treatment.

His family and long-term partner, Jenny, brought in cards and news from friends and well-wishers.

Jenny also showed him pictures of the house they had just bought together - but were unable to move into because of Neil's condition.

Even after leaving hospital, he experienced flashbacks to his time in ICU and had a distorted perception of his stay.

But he paid an "emotionally difficult" visit to the unit, which helped him gain a realistic view of his time there.

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