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Observations placeholder

ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group - The nightmare seemed to go on and on



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


It is a pity we don't know the sedatives or medication

A description of the experience

Information gathered from...  "ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group"

An educational website provided by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

(ICU Patients describe their Delirium Experiences.)


It's been two years and I'm still trying to sort out what was real and what wasn't. I still think about it several times a week and continue to ask questions of my family. I have a compelling need to know what happened to me. The final diagnosis was ARDS and Encephalopathy, however; they never determined the cause.

I was on a ventilator and heavily sedated for nine days. I experienced what I call a prolonged nightmare. The theme: I was in an experimental hospital to learn what it's like to be completely dependent on someone else. I am a nurse so figured it was my punishment. The nightmare seemed to go on and on with different twists and turns.

After I was extubated and sedation was discontinued, I continued to have paranoid delusions about the nurses wanting to harm me. I repeatedly told my family that when I was dead, the nurses were going to put my body in a large trash can at the foot of my bed. I was obsessed about it and no one could tell me anything to the contrary. I was hallucinating at times especially at night when I was alone. I saw outlines of skeletons on the wall, heard strange sounds, etc. I believed I had been moved into various parts of the hospital, including the basement. I misinterpreted environmental cues and attempts to help me were interpreted as meanness. At discharge, the Neuropsychological Evaluation (NP) revealed significant deficits. I have a history of depression which was also present at discharge.

I was never told by anyone what to expect. When I reported cognitive concerns to my neurologist at the follow-up visit he gave me a Mini-Mental which I could have passed in my sleep.

After 5 months I felt better and returned to work but was fired 10 weeks later. I was devastated because I am a successful professional and had never lost a job. At the same time, it didn't surprise me because I was struggling terribly. I couldn't organize my work; committed many errors in documentation; frequently lost things; forgot meetings, and did not manage my time well. I tried to hide it and compensate but to no avail. I also fatigued easily. At the follow-up NP evaluation four months after discharge (prior to returning to work), the report stated that I was "back to baseline," however; the written report noted numerous deficiencies. After I lost my job I called the psychologist who stated it was "semantics". I appealed to my insurance for a second NP evaluation by the psychologist at the hospital. It revealed deficits in attention and executive function. I experienced major depression which didn't resolve for 18 months.

I'm hoping to return to work in the near future, at least part-time but I'm very nervous about it. I think there's been improvement but I still experience difficulty in attention and organization and still lose things on a regular basis. I at least need to try.

The source of the experience

Scientist other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps