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Interview 26

Age at interview: 47
Brief Outline: Was admitted to intensive care in 2005 because of severe pneumonia. Spent 30 days in intensive care and 8 days in a general ward.
Background: Occupation: none at time of interview. Marital status: married. Number of children: 2. White British.

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In his near-death experiences a sedate scene was always followed by a fight.

In his near-death experiences a sedate scene was always followed by a fight.

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One of the journeys was, I was on a boat. We'd sold up our houses, or our house, I wish we did have houses, we'd sold up our house. We were on board a boat with some of the nurses, and it was, I think it was Malay nurses. And we were on this, and it was like a ferry type thing. So it wasn't just one boat, there was various boats all together. And I was going up this nice little sedate river and we were travelling along. And then I had a problem with one of the Malayan guys and we ended up in a struggle and a fight. And my wife intervened and then one of the other girls intervened. And then I was starting to sort of say, "No, no, no, no, no" and I started to actually throw up all over my wife, regurgitate. And I said, "No, no, no, no." And I remember that vividly. And that was, so it was very serene and then it was a fight. And I know what the fight was. It wasn't anything against the people that were there. It was a fight to say, "No, you're not having me."  

And then the next time it was the Kylie Minogue syndrome which, I'd actually managed to catch her. And we won't go into the state of dress and the state of, how can we say, whatever, attitudes. But there was a sense there, because of the state, and again it was a very serene build-up to it, very, very serene. And it was a chase, and it was a chase into a building. And she was dressed in, excuse the term, stockings, suspenders and not a lot else. And her boyfriend, husband, whatever he was, that's the vague area, stepped in front of me and said like, "Sorry". And, and I said, "No, no". And that's where we went into the, "No, no" and the fight back again. And there were some other things that I won't talk on about video, because it's a bit rude, but before, you know. But that was the other time. But it was very serene, a fight, and then back to serenity, normality.

 

He felt bored and frustrated and had to learn how to walk again.

He felt bored and frustrated and had to learn how to walk again.

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I was in Intensive Care for thirty-odd days. The staff in general were absolutely brilliant. There were occasions when through my frustration I became frustrated by them, and subsequently they became frustrated by me. There were situations where again in my hallucinatory state I may have said something or indicated or implied that I wasn't happy. I think that was more the case of, I was frustrated at not being able to move out of the bed and having to have somebody clear up after me, for want of a better term. 

Because I was moaning that I was still about, not still alive, but still sort of, and I was bored. "I've spent thirty days in...". He said [the doctor], "You're always moaning". Because I was just bored, because there's nothing to do. You're laying there, and people don't realise just how horrific that can be. I mean I had various sores on my feet, which have only recently gone off my heels, compression sores. I had a sore butt, where I'd been sat in a position for God knows how long. And I had the doctor telling me, "Well, surely if you've been in ICU for thirty days and you've come out, you should be really happy". I said, "Well, I am happy." I said, "But..." I said, "But me butt hurts" [laughs].

 

He remembered the conversation he had with his wife before he was sedated in intensive care but...

He remembered the conversation he had with his wife before he was sedated in intensive care but...

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They explained roughly what was going on and that they would have to put me into the Intensive Care Unit and that subsequently, sorry, that's slightly wrong, they'd already put me into the Intensive Care Unit. She [wife] had not been contacted as I'd been advised that she had been. When she arrived, we had a discussion, and I gave her my watch and my wedding ring for safe keeping, so that in the event that I didn't survive, because it was quite serious, she would have them. We discussed as much as we could the issues that had occurred.

And I was opposite a lady of about 75 years of age in Intensive Care, who also had pneumonia, and she had obviously had some form of difficulties. And subsequently she managed to survive her treatment and had come out of it in such a way that she seemed to be on an overhead ventilator, from my recollection. And I said to my wife, "Tomorrow, when you come back in, I'm going to look like that." Now that's not necessarily the case, but that's how matters actually felt. 

Subsequently I was informed that I would be sedated, which I can recall. I can recall that I was told that I would have to lay very still to have a long needle, for want of a better term, inserted into one of my veins in my neck. And I expressed concern at that point in time because they advised me that I had to stay still for ten minutes, and I couldn't actually stay still without coughing for about thirty seconds. They obviously sedated me at that point in time, and inserted the needle. And that is the last I can really recall for something like twelve to fourteen days. 

 

He recommended discussing dreams with family rather than nurses, and appreciated family members...

He recommended discussing dreams with family rather than nurses, and appreciated family members...

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And if anybody experiences something [dreams and hallucinations] and they say, "God knows where that's come from" then just talk to someone about it, your wife, your kids, doesn't matter, just talk to someone. I wouldn't say talk to the nurses and the doctors, because they say, "Oh, yes, that's natural." The people that you're talking to say, "You're having a laugh." And the thing is you're not having a laugh, but you are having a laugh. And they take it on board and say, "Cor, blimey, what sort of life have you lived to coming to that sort of dream?"

And you say, "Well, that's just it. I'm just a normal person." Who on earth would dream that somebody's going to be a fish and be closed down and be released? You know, I had a dream where I was on the Richard and Judy show, but I was an undercover party to that. And it's just absolutely surreal. And there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. So you need to get it all off your chest. If you've got a really, really good wife that listens or a good husband that listens, take them for a lovely meal afterwards, [laughs] because like they're going to, bend their ears first, but then take them out and like treat them like they are God's gift. Because if they've stood by you for all of that, they are.

 

He panicked because having a tracheostomy triggered memories from his childhood and his father's...

He panicked because having a tracheostomy triggered memories from his childhood and his father's...

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What people don't understand is the side-effects of certain aspects of that, i.e. my father died of cancer, he had throat cancer. And he had a full tracheoctomy, complete with larynx removal, and four weeks after that he died. When I came too, I had no voice and a tracheoctomy. And I thought, tracheoscomy, never get it right, so no voice and you couldn't talk. And panic set in. But not because of the pneumonia, because of, "My God, what else have they found?" So we obviously skirted round that issue. And we would find that, it's situations like that, that can bring back things, i.e. what's happened in the past can cause problems in the future.

I knew I was obviously, because I'd woken up with the tube in my neck as I call it. And it was most uncomfortable. Another thing that they couldn't understand why I found it so uncomfortable. But when I was in my junior school, and that's going back a lot of years, somebody had actually tried to strangle me with their rucksack. And I had to hit him rather violently to get him off. But basically it was the neck being crushed, and I've never liked a tight collar or not anything since then. I mean I've always had jobs where I've had to wear a collar and tie, and I wear them as loose as possible. But no one could understand my anxiety at this, basically a clamp around your throat. And you're trying to breathe and you're trying not to panic at the same time. So if people ever get into that situation, then, you know, you need to make your feelings felt. Because once I'd actually got those feelings over, they actually loosened slightly the crimping material that they hold it on by. But it is a very, very poor design.

 

He and his wife enjoy going back to ICU to see the nurses and thank them again for all they did...

He and his wife enjoy going back to ICU to see the nurses and thank them again for all they did...

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I'll be going back again as long as they'll, I'm not saying I'll be back, you know, every week, every month, but I will be going back sort of again probably in about another four or five weeks.  

To say thanks or...?

Just to say "Thanks" and say, you know, "How are you going?" And just potter in and say, you know, "Is it okay if we come in?" And because they appreciate us there. And I think that's, one of the best appreciations is, the one thing that I really get a thrill from is just how pleased they are to see you. And that's something that is difficult to comprehend unless you've been in that situation. You know, there are many a staff there, just, "Hello, Mike. How are you going?" And it was as though you were a family. And that's the other little thing that perhaps I should say, is that when you've spent that amount of time in there, and even like [my wife] said it, we actually miss it, we actually miss that hospital environment. Which is wrong, we shouldn't do. But we do.  

Because it was an experience that, okay, we'd have preferred not to have had. But we did have it. And sometimes we sit here and we talk about the people that were in there, what they were doing, what they were training, you know, how they were talking to each other, how they were talking to us etc etc. So, yes, you know, they've left their mark on our lives as well as we've left, possibly, our mark on theirs, because obviously they get so many bodies going through there. And if they get that many bodies then, you know, well, good luck to them. It's not a nice place to be, but, they've got to be in a different world, but they cope very well.

 

His wife collected him, but they would have liked some help from hospital staff with carrying his...

His wife collected him, but they would have liked some help from hospital staff with carrying his...

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There I was, hardly able to walk. I could walk, I had a stick at the time, so I wasn't that bad. But I was very, very weak. I mean I'm not detracting of that. I had twenty-four boxes of build-up drink. I had all my medication. I had my various bits and bobs that I'd actually had bought in to me. And I was on fourth floor, third floor. The car park was approximately, walking-wise it was probably about 500 metres. And I asked one of the nurses if they had a trolley or a chair to like assist me to get there. "No." "Oh." Now there was a 16-year, and I can't remember her name, that really annoys me, there was a 16-year-old work experience girl. She said, "Are you okay, [participant's name]?" I said, "Yes." I said, "I've just got to try and work out, because [my wife's] coming for me..." 

So [my wife] came for me. I said, "But I've got to work out how to get all this stuff down to the car." I said, "Now obviously I can't carry a lot of it." She said, "I'll help you." I said, "Well, let me try and work something else out." I said, "But like if, . . .". She said, "Well, I leave at 3 or 3.30". She said, "But, you know". She said, "If you need me, just let me know, and I'll help you out." I said, "Thank you very much." I said, "That's lovely." But as it happens we, [my wife] actually spent about four journeys going up and down in the lift to take this stuff downstairs while I went off to have a shower, so that I was clean to go out and what have you. But I have to say that that ward, and I can't say all the staff, there were three brilliant ones, there were three brilliant staff, but the rest of them were pretty mediocre. 

 

He needed a few days to recover from a short walk and had no strength to do the jobs around the...

He needed a few days to recover from a short walk and had no strength to do the jobs around the...

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But I was very much in for going out for walks etc. And we'd go for undercover walks i.e. we'd go to shopping centres and what have you. And in the first few weeks, probably the first six, seven weeks, the walks, if I was walking around somewhere, the average shopping centre, it would take two and a half days out of my life, the following days, because I just would not recover and I was just absolutely shattered. 

Now it's like getting down to, if I actually go out now to the average shopping centre and we spend some time, I can probably walk about a mile, but we tend to have a rest in the middle of that because we'll pop off for a cup of coffee. And then it'll only take a day, maybe a day and a half to recover. So, you know, it's time-controlled, you know. But I do as much as I can. I mean I'm a lousy house-husband these days, but I sort of put the washing in the washing machine and the dishes in the dishwasher. But I've lost, I mean I'm not doing the things that I would normally be doing if I was in this position. I mean I'd be on the computer, getting on the phone, doing this, finishing off the bathroom that I'd started and things like that. And getting rid of this lino that's behind the settee, because I've got to do the kitchen and get that sorted out. But I just haven't got the physical capabilities. I haven't got the strength to do it in my arms. The legs are getting a lot better but the arms are taking a lot longer. I can't work that one out.  

Yeah. Did you expect to be up and doing things much quicker?  

Oh, yes, yes. No one told, I mean they've advised me that, you know, you can lose 50 per cent of your muscle mass in no time whatsoever. No one told me just how bad that was going to be. Well, I don't think anyone could tell you. You have to experience it to be there. Because from being able to sort of get up and walk and do whatever, you end up with a situation where, you know, you have to get a stick to get you up. I had to have a walking stick to walk. I mean fortunately I've been able to put that to one side. But that's my pedantic attitude, not the walking stick. I should really, I mean we keep it in the car just in case. I've got two young kids, which, that was the critical bit, I couldn't pick my children up. They were running up to me and, physically, I could not pick them up. Which I can at least get them on me knees now and what have you. 

 

He would have appreciated a phone call after leaving hospital but his hospital organised no...

He would have appreciated a phone call after leaving hospital but his hospital organised no...

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The one thing that again is something that hasn't come up is that they've not, and apparently there's no budget for it, so it's not the girls' fault, they've not come round to looking at me here, how I'm getting on, how, you know, I'm coping, surviving. It's very much mishmash now. There is no structure to anything. In there it was very structured, you know. They knew that they had to visit. I mean I had outreach people come round, chat to me, look at me. And I, you know, I'll be going back to the ICU unit for a chat once I've had my final investigation and x-ray hopefully, in August.  

And I'll pop down to the ICU unit and I'll talk to the people. But every time I go down there I say, you know, "It's pretty poor out, the aftercare outside of the hospital or outside of ICU is pretty naff". 

And you mentioned aftercare. What would you like to have had?

It would have been nice for somebody to sort of, a week after or something, to make a quick phone call, just to say, "Well, are you still alive?" or what have you. I've had nothing, absolutely nothing. And I think, I mean if it was just a case of somebody sort of gone in there for an in-growing toenail, yes, you can understand. But as I say I did actually die on respiration on two occasions. And it caused them some concerns. 

 

He and his wife grew closer after his illness and have both talked about their feelings at...

He and his wife grew closer after his illness and have both talked about their feelings at...

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Oh, we've become so much closer. We talk in a different way as well, totally different. We talk about things that really happened and what didn't happen. And I ask her whether or not, you know, I said something to her. Because in my hallucination states I was dreaming or seeing her, but I was seeing Kylie Minogue as well. So, you know, it's the whole lot is very surreal. But we're so much closer with regard to our discussions and our talks and what have you. And as you said earlier, you know, we talk about things that are on her side of it. Because it's no good saying it's all you. Because, okay, you're in a bed for fifteen days, you don't know what's going on. You've got somebody sitting there. Fortunately as I say she took some notes, because she knew I was going to ask [laughs].  

She sits there and she's got to go, phone my mum twice a day. She's got to go and phone her mum. The kids are coming home. They're only young, but all of a sudden I'm not there, they're asking questions. Because they're at that stage where, you know, if I'm not here then obviously they're asking the question. My daughter actually asked for a photograph of me and, they both had a photograph to take round to nursery with them. And silly things like that. And that brings over that side, you know. She's had to go through the same trauma but in a different format. And, you know, we talk about all the bits and bobs that went on. 

 

He advises people to keep a diary for their loved ones while they are in intensive care because...

He advises people to keep a diary for their loved ones while they are in intensive care because...

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The only thing I'd say to other people is, is that if you get into a situation where you are in an Intensive Care unit, if you've got that Intensive Care unit, then please just take a diary or just make notes of what's going on, for whoever is actually in that unit. Because they will want questions answered. And that's the key I think really.

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