Interview 36

Age at interview: 52
Brief Outline: His father went to ICU after having a stroke and developing pneumonia. Members of the family supported one another and he is now closer to his sister.
Background: Fire safety manager, married with two children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

More about me...

His 80-year-old father was admitted to ICU in 2006 after having a minor stroke and developing pneumonia. He spent five days in ICU and five days in HDU. He was then transferred to a ward, where he spent three days, before being discharged. 

He visited his father in ICU and HDU every day with his mother and sister, and every evening after work when his father was improving. He praised the doctors and nurses for their care and support, and felt they were always willing to answer questions and give information.    

Members of the family supported one another while his father was ill and he is now closer to his sister. His father has more energy than before his intensive care stay and looks healthier. 

Get as much information as you can, ask questions if there is anything you don't understand, and...

As worrying as it is and as scared as you are about what the outcome may be, and you fear asking a question because you might not like the answer or the answer may frighten you, ask away. Ask away because you learn so much from that and if those in Intensive Care, and I have no reason to believe any different, are the same as the ones that dealt with my Dad they will answer any question you have got. They will even come forward with information for you. I think it is important to ask. I think that would help, I really do. 

Is there anything else that was important to you or any one else in the family during that time and when your Dad was back home that I haven't asked you about? Anything you want to mention or any message you would like to give to someone in a similar situation? 

Just be positive. Be positive all the time. And I think if you are positive, I think that goes round the family and people that are visiting, and you can take that to the beside as well. And you can feed off that and encourage people, you know whether it is the person that is in Intensive Care, talk to them while they are spark out. My Dad, to this day he doesn't remember us saying anything to him. Just remembers moving that one time. But be positive, as hard as it is to be positive sometimes, and talk. 


He felt visitors shouldn't have to worry about parking when they have a relative in intensive care.

And you mentioned that it was quite difficult to park at the hospital. Is there anything that could be done to improve that or any other area where you felt things could have been improved? 

That is a good point. That is actually something that myself and my sister talked about. If there are family members of people that are in Intensive Care on life support, there should be somewhere for them to be able to park and not have to worry about, 'I'll have to go out to put some more money in the meter' sort of thing. The hospital where we are, in our locality, is a nightmare for parking. I don't know how they get round that. They have tried to extend it but I found that it was easier for us, it was easier in the evening to find somewhere to park. But what I used to do, I used to drop off all the family members that I was taking at the main entrance. I would then go to park at the bottom of the hill and I would walk back. And on leaving I'd do the reverse and go and get the car, unless it was nice and then we'd walk as a family. But mostly certainly you have got, it's one of the things you shouldn't have to worry about, where to park, you know. 


He wanted to know why his father had got so ill so quickly, and tried to reassure his mother...

Information wise it was okay, but there were still questions that we needed answering, 'Why had it happened so quick?' And in the early days they didn't know what they were checking for. I remember the anaesthetist saying, 'We are checking for meningitis, we are checking for legionella, we are checking for pneumonia, we are checking for a stroke. We just don't know what it is.' 

And I think I posed a question, 'What are you giving him?' and he quite amusingly said, 'Think of Domestos as an antibiotic, we are giving him really strong stuff so that it would kill anything' sort of thing, you know. So I thought that, although humorous at the time, it filled us with a deal of hope. 

My Mum was clearly distressed and I don't think she, for a while my Mum was in a bit of denial, you know. She was just looking all the time for positive signs. My Mum is 79, she was 79 yesterday actually, and that is understandable. They have been married for over 50 years. It was really tough for my Mum. She wanted to see positives and everything was going wrong. She in fact clung to those little things, if they said something, they were going trying to try something, 'Oh that is good isn't it.' Yes, that is good but you know it may take a little bit longer than that, he is not out of it yet.' So I was encouraging her and emphasising what they were saying and trying to give her comfort, but at the same time obviously they were preparing her you know' 


Although he supported everyone else and didn't show his feelings, he also had sleepless nights...

I'll have to be honest because my family know me, I don't show emotion, although over the last few years more of it. I tend to hide my emotions. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve sort of thing. And I think that is through taking home from the fire service things that are distressing. People lose their lives, so you tend to bottle things up. And it is not good. But both myself and my sister leaned on each other and took great strength from each other and remained strong for the children, all the young children and my Mum. But that is a hard thing to do. I had many sleepless nights. I will grant you that. But that is not unusual. But yes, definitely it felt' and it wasn't a burden, it wasn't a burden, it is something that came readily, you know, just to shoulder responsibility, take the stress off people. That wasn't a problem. That is something I have always done. 


His father is a different person now and looks as healthy as he did 18 months ago when he was...

If you had seen my Dad before he went in, he hadn't had good health all year, he looked awful, dreadful. And now, for an 80 year old, whatever happened on that 48 hour period leading up, whatever caused it, we know now what it was, it has all been flushed away and he is more active, better colour, he is walking, still cranky. But he is the Dad that I knew a year or eighteen months before when he had had a medical from the doctor who said you have the heart of a 50 year old. So it was just a bit odd that you could go in to Intensive Care and be on life support and told that your Dad might die, and you are thinking 'is he going to come out of here. I don't think he will come out of here'. That is what some people were saying. To three weeks later you wouldn't have believed he had been in Intensive Care. Yes, a little bit weak on his legs but that soon came back, out and about walking. And like I say he is just a different man. 

At the end of the day my Dad has come out of Intensive Care as a different man, he really is a different man. I told him. 

How is he different? 

He just looks better, he just looks better, and he is more mobile than what he was before. All he wanted to do was just nap and sleep all day. We tried to get him to change his sleep patterns and stay up a little bit longer and in the first few weeks after he was asleep from something like eight o'clock through to six the next morning. My day doesn't do that. You know he worked for decades down the coalmine and there they have four or five hours and regularly get up at 3 o'clock in the morning. But he has drifted a little bit into that sort of sleep pattern but if that is the price to pay for looking as well as he does then I am happy. I am happy with that. But he does, he looks tremendous, he really does.


He and his father visited the ICU bed his father had been in at a follow-up appointment and...

I think we had something like three quarters of an hour with the nurse and then he took us back in again. And we were able to show my Dad during the quiet period, because they have a quiet period at the hospital, four until six, and we took my Dad in and we said, 'That is where your bed was Dad. That's where you were for five days. That is the bed that you kept trying to climb out of.' 

What was really important and it came out of the blue, was to get the letter to say, inviting us back up to Intensive Care to have a feedback. I thought that was an excellent idea and really didn't expect it. I spoke to my sister but unfortunately she couldn't go. But I thought it was a really good idea. 

And when you went back did your visit the ITU and the HDU? 

Yes. We had about 45 minutes in the afternoon with the nurses chatting away to us and feedback and checking my Dad over. At one point my Dad had a cough and the nurse said, 'Are you all right?' He said he had a bit of a cold and I spoke to him the day before our meeting and he said, 'I have wrote to your Dad's doctor to let him know that it could be one part of his medication that he was on before his Intensive Care experience and they might consider changing that medication because that could be causing this little bit of a cough.' And I thought that was really good, you know, he was taking the care, the time out to do that. And I thought oh' 

And was that also when you found out exactly what happened to your Dad, that he had had a mini stroke and then'?

I always thought he had had one of those. You know, for him to be comatose all night. I thought, I mentioned it. But they obviously didn't know at that time, it was in the early stages. It was a thought that I had had because I had seen him, particularly on the one around Easter time, and for me it was natural that something had happened during the night for him to go virtually unconscious and then whatever happened for it to develop into pneumonia. I always thought that but, to be told at a later date, confirmed what we were saying. What we did ask and it was something my sister had mentioned, is could it every happen again in that way? Because my Dad had had problems with his respiration, was he now susceptible to it because of his age and this had happened. And the feedback was 'no, no more or less than anybody else in the general population. Or no more than anyone else in the general population.' So that was comforting. 


He grew closer to his sister because they spent so much time together when they were visiting...

Has it made your family or just you as a person look at life differently at all? Did you think about or all talk about maybe once things are better wanting to do things differently or value things differently or some people say they want to live more for the day'? 

That has always been my outlook on life because I started my career twenty seven years ago. I've seen people lose their lives so I live for today. You know. Money means nothing to me. So that is important to me. I tried to encourage my Dad to spend a bit of money and he decided eighteen months ago 'I am not going to going abroad on holiday again' and this that and the other and you are cajoling him, 'Go on' Life doesn't stop because you've been in Intensive Care. You look much better now than you have ever looked in your life. Well in the last year at least for definite.' As a family we are much closer, particularly me and my sister. We are really close, which is brilliant. She is really good. 

How has it made you closer since that Intensive Care period? 

Just the experience of having to go through it as a brother and sister, close together, talking, talking about things that were to do with Intensive Care and things that weren't, that are important to us as a family. So that was really good. A lot of positives came out of Intensive Care. No negatives when you think about it.

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