Spending time in the Intensive Care Unit, for whatever reason, isn't usually a pleasant experience. Whether you are visiting for a day or a couple of weeks, you experience something completely different. By this point, whatever reason you are visiting the ICU has probably impacted your life immensely. You have probably been surrounded by family and friends more than you have in awhile and your whole world looks different than it did before you came here. My mom was placed in the ICU just over a week ago and has been in critical condition ever since. I'm going on my eighth day of visiting the ICU and I can tell you that these past eight days have been a whirlwind for me. Here are a few things that define the experience of spending an extended amount of time in the ICU.
Your family and friends who are also visiting will establish a routine
My family and I have not only established a routine for our time here in the ICU but we have also have adapted to the many ways in which we spend our whole days here. We know that at least one or two people will be here a night and that there will always be someone here at any given time. Because there are always people here, we have also marked our territory by pretty much created our own apartment in the family waiting room. The lounge outside my mom's room has now become our hangout spot and it doesn't look like that'll change anytime soon.
You will become friends with the nurses
Because I have been spending just about 24/7 here since I arrived, I now know every nurse that comes and goes. Of course, naturally, I have my favorites! When you stay overnight in the hospital, especially the ICU, you can find it extremely hard to fall asleep. So most nights I will stay up and the best times are when I get to have conversations with the nurses on a personal level. The work that the nurses do is incredible and without them we would not be able to look up so I thank them greatly!
You will never want to leave
It won't be because it is just so exciting in the ICU that you want to stay forever, you won't want to leave because having a loved one in the ICU is a scary thing and leaving them can be the hardest part. For me, I don't want my mom to wake up and not have me there right by her side. Even if you have other family there, while you are gone you will always have that little voice inside of you that tells you to go back.
You'll see a lot of sad moments
You may be there visiting to see your loved one but if you spent a large amount of time here you will see other patients come in and out. Coming to the ICU is never a good situation, many of which can be extremely sad to watch especially as family seeing other families go through it. Seeing patients who get better and 'graduate' as we call it can be one of the most relieving feelings to have here but there are also the times of sorrow and pain that are hard to oversee.
You will see what your support system looks like first hand
When having a family member in the ICU, it can be very scary and mean that family and friends will be notified. Most likely, especially if you are an immediate family member, the support that you will receive will be immense. When things began to go downhill for my mom and more people were finding out that she was in the ICU, I began to receive tons of phone calls and messages with loving support. For that, I am so grateful.
If you are reading this and know my mom, Amy Peterson, you know what a tough cookie she is. She is still in the ICU as I write this outside of her room in our hangout spot. If you would like to know updates you can go to caringbridge.org where daily updates are available!