My Lack of ‘CARE’ in the ICU

I was in the recovery room for a total of nine hours before moving to the Intensive Care Unit  (ICU).  At the same time, my husband and daughter arrived at the hospital and were told I had moved out of the recovery area to the ICU, but given no additional information. While the nurses helped get me settled, my husband and daughter walked into the ICU. They tried to look cheerful and happy to see me; however, I could immediately read the concern in their faces. I hadn’t seen any mirrors, but I could imagine I must have looked awful since I had been through a rough day that was lasting into the night.

The beds in the ICU were surrounded by see-through windows so there was little to no privacy. Each section was equipped with a camera in the ceiling. The nurse assigned to me explained that the camera was there “so doctors interested in checking in on their patients could do so by logging on to a computer.” However, since I was heavily medicated and experiencing shock from the surgery and extensive pain, I felt odd with the camera in the room. I felt as if every move I made was being taped. Not that I am a paranoid person, but medication can cause your mind to do odd things.  Wanting to lighten up the mood, I joked to the nurse that now I understood why that section of the hospital was called ‘I C U.’  She didn’t think my comment was funny.

The outside of the ICU was next to the helicopter pad with a helicopter that came and left constantly, day and night. It made it difficult to sleep. In addition, there was an older gentleman who had brain surgery earlier that evening. Sadly, he screamed obscenities for two days straight (even words I had never heard!). The nurses were yelling back at him telling him to shut up. They even joked telling me details of his surgery and what was ’wrong’ with him. I felt odd hearing the private details of another patient and one I knew was in pain and not acting like himself. I often think back to those restless nights, hurting and also wondering if I should have been screaming along with him.

I was required to stay at a 45 degree angle for 48 hours — not because of the cervical discectomy and fusion — but because of the ‘little problem with the nerves on my right side that occurred during surgery.‘  I was unable to get out of bed or shift my position. When my husband arrived in the early afternoon the day after surgery, he became upset and angry because I had vomit all over my chest and my hospital gown. Throwing up was especially difficult when you are unable to sit up or lean over. My husband also learned I had not eaten since arriving in the ICU. He was told “I missed the food tray because I had fallen asleep during the time that they had dropped off and picked up the trays.”
At about that same time, the doctor who did the surgery, called using his cell phone, from the soccer field where his son was playing. He informed me again he was on vacation, but was spending time in town with his family. I immediately explained how sick I was, that I hadn’t had anything to eat, about the increasing pain in my right arm and hand and how I hadn‘t slept all night. He mentioned he would have his physician’s assistant stop by and sign the order for medication for the nausea and make sure the order included food. I asked him if another neurosurgeon was going to be checking on me since I knew there was a problem during surgery. He quickly respond with a quick ‘no!’  Several hours later the physician’s assistant stopped by, signed his orders, and I was given medication to stop the nausea along with a bagel and ginger ale. No one mentioned the pain in my arm. When I think back, was I only worthy of a telephone call after what I had gone through? Who was going to explain to me why I was going through such a horrible ordeal?

During his visit the following day, my husband accidentally brushed up against my arm. When he did, it felt like a thousand knives cutting into my arm. The pain was like nothing l had ever felt. I also was unable to use my arm or hand, but was told it was temporary. I was a person who was extremely right-handed so I was beginning to feel lost not being able to move my arm. Still scared and unsure of what was occurring, I knew I was heavily medicated so I would stop complaining and ultimately, stop asking questions.

During my time in the ICU and despite the medication, I only slept a few hours. Between the helicopter noise, the screaming patient, the nurses in and out pin pricking me and taking vitals every 30 minutes as well as the constant pain in my arm, I was unable to rest, which added to my frustration as well as my sadness.

The next day during his visit, my husband made a comment about the blood spots on my arm and hand. I mentioned that they must be on my entire body since I had been pin pricked every 30 minutes during the last two days. He glanced over my feet, legs, arms, torso and said that every few inches I had needle marks. While I knew they were conducting the test quite regularly, I didn’t know why it was being done and what the results were. Again, no one was answering our questions or giving a straight-forward response. Since I wasn’t allowed to move my position, I didn’t know if I would be able to stand or even walk. Later that night, alone in the ICU, I cried for hours. Not once did the nurse ask me what was wrong or if I needed anything. Was I feeling sorry for myself? Probably. Was it warranted? Definitely!

©My Unplanned Life and, 2011.


About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
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7 Responses to My Lack of ‘CARE’ in the ICU

  1. Joan says:

    Marsha, this has to be painful and therapuetic at the same time. You are doing a great job in explaining your condition and emotional state…I find I am admiring you more with each new blog. Wonderful job!

    • mswd says:

      Joan ~ thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. It is hearing from my dear friends that keeps me going. It is painful to re-live all of this over again, but it does feel good to get it out in the open. I also hope that the blog will help others who are dealing with a difficult illness, injury or any situation that life throws at them when it was least expected. If it helps one person…then I know one of the reasons why I had to go through what I did. Hoping that all is well with you and wishing you luck with your upcoming surgery. You are in my thoughts and prayers dear friend. Much love and again, thank you for your nice note.

  2. jayme jannone says:

    Dear Marsha,
    I was so hurt when I tried to contact you and you never returned my calls. Reading your blogs makes me fully understand now that it was nothing against me, but that you needed to recover on your own. I wish so much that there was something I could do for you – you were always there to help others no matter how busy you were. I often think of years back when we laughed together and spent endless hours helping each other with our homes, your gardening help, my cooking, before the harry and john days! Would love to go back to this. I’m glad you are near your family – BUT I MISS YOU! Love, Jayme

    • mswd says:

      Jayme ~ I wish that I could turn back time and re-live parts of my life after the surgery. I feel like I blinked and missed several years. I owe you so much for your friendship and sticking with me at one of my lowest points. I feel that I have been to Hell and back. Please keep reading since I hope it will also help explain why I missed Rich’s wedding — something that I will never be able to make up to you. You are right, we have had so many great times and I look forward to many more laughs in the future! Come visit anytime! I miss you so much dear friend. Wishing you continued success and hope to see you soon!

  3. Marsh – It seems that this story is out of a third world country. I’m sick to death – as it reminds me of a two of my family’s botched surgeries and the aftermath…. I’m still reading!

  4. CamAmateur says:

    what a nicely done blog unlike many other pages with all the spam i had to see today

    • mswd says:

      Thanks so much Mike — I appreciate getting such a nice comment from someone who knows blogs! Wishing you all the best. I am always looking for new ways to improve and get my message out. If you have any, please feel free to share. Wishing you the best.


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