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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
'What intensive care meant to me'
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Lisa Hinton
Lisa had to be sedated for 10 days
When she started to feel under the weather, Lisa Hinton assumed she had a dose of flu and stayed off work to recuperate.

But within days her condition had rapidly deteriorated. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and septicaemia and admitted to an intensive care unit.

For the first 10 days Lisa was deeply sedated, as doctors gave her body a chance to recover.

She spent three weeks in intensive care, before being transferred to the high dependency unit and eventually onto a normal ward.

Weak

When she left hospital over two months later she was very weak, frightened and confused.

One minute she had been a healthy and active mother of a young toddler - the next she was in a wheelchair, unable to walk more than 10 paces unaided.

When I came out of hospital I searched and searched for something to help me make sense of what I had been through
Lisa Hinton

On her return from hospital she found it difficult to sleep and she worried about her slow recovery.

Now she, along with 40 others, has agreed to talk about her experiences in intensive care to help other patients, relatives and medical staff understand the long-term trauma of the experience.

"I think it will be a fantastic resource.

"When I came out of hospital, I searched and searched for something to help me make sense of what I had been through.

"When I was sedated in intensive care, I was so confused. I thought I was in an aeroplane.

"It was the only way I could explain to myself why I stayed in the same spot without moving.

"Just realising when I came out of hospital that others were also having difficulty sleeping and getting an idea about the sort of bench-marks for recovery would have helped me."

Lisa, aged 37, from London, said she had been so frail when she returned from hospital that she had needed help to care for her daughter Zoe, who was just 16 months at the time.

Recovery

Three years later Lisa, who now has a second baby, Sasha, is now walking, and back at work as a researcher, but she says it took her about a year to recover her strength.

"They still don't know why I became so ill. I did not have any rare form of pneumonia, but it was the septicaemia that made me so ill.

"I had drugs pumped into my body to fight it and I needed a tracheotomy to breathe.

"I did find the transfer from intensive care to step-down, or high dependency, and then the general ward, very scary.

"You go from having someone at your bed 24 hours a day to a ward where one nurse is looking after about eight of you.

"I also found it difficult learning how to strengthen my body again. Even just sitting up in a chair is difficult.

"You have to re-learn how to use all your muscles again."

Dr Ann McPherson, who set up the Dipex site - a database of individual patient experience, said she hoped these latest testimonies would offer assistance to patients, staff and carers about intensive care experiences.

A lot of people have nightmares, some know they almost died
Dr Ann McPherson

"When you come out of intensive care it is incredibly frightening.

"A lot of people have nightmares, some know they almost died."

She said most patients would access the site after their experiences, as few people know in advance that they are likely to spend time in intensive care.

The section covers experiences of the intensive care ward, high dependency units, the general hospital stay and the return home.

Dr Suman Prinjha, a senior researcher at Dipex who was responsible for the project, was confident it would be a useful resource.

"There is very little accessible information for patients, or their relatives about intensive care, the treatments, the environment, or about physical and emotional experiences.

"Not all hospitals have ICU follow-up clinics and there are very few support groups for people who have been in intensive care."

Dr Carl Waldmann, member of the Intensive Care Society, and consultant in intensive care and anaesthetist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, agreed: "We are very supportive of this.

"One of the things a few of us do, is to see our patients post intensive care and talk to them about their experiences."

Dr Waldmann said that although a lot of money is ploughed into intensive care, less consideration is given to the emotional and psychological legacy patients can suffer after their experiences and that this needs to be addressed.




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