On World Delirium Awareness Day, I have been reflecting on my three weeks in ICU three years ago. I suffered from delirium and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that that’s what it was called. I was 28 years old when I was admitted to ICU. I have no memories of going to the hospital, just of having a virus leading up to it. While the world was going about its business, I was living in another world – my ‘dream state’ as I call it. I didn’t know what was going on in the real world, but my body was trying to make sense of the things that were happening to me while I was sedated. I believed I was being hunted down and tortured by a group of people looking for my family. In this state, I would escape for short periods of times and be with my family before being recaptured. Looking back, it all seems unbelievable but it is your brain that’s telling you it’s real at the time. When I look back, every transition in my dream state can be linked to a drip being inserted, a biopsy taken or other medical procedure being performed.
“When I look back, every transition in my dream state can be linked to a drip being inserted, a biopsy taken or other medical procedure being performed.”
Delirium is like a thief in the night. Prior to having delirium I had no issues with mental health, cognitive or memory issues. Before I even left the hospital I already suffered with depression, as well as developing panic attacks and PTSD. It stole my short-term memory and my ability to concentrate for any length of time. These issues are not fully resolved. In the time immediately after delirium you are not sure what is real and what’s not. Sometimes you will have a physical reaction to people who might be looking after you but in your dream state, might have been your torturer. Even now, three years on I still have memory and concentration issues and while I no longer have panic attacks, I get anxious more often. This all came from fighting for my life, both in my dream state and real life.
A better understanding of delirium is crucial for everyone involved in care, as often the problems post delirium are not understood and can cause issues between the patient and family and friends. However, awareness is not just for the public, a better understanding by medical professionals is also needed, as while most understand when a patient is suffering from delirium, they are unaware of its after effects.
“A better understanding of delirium is crucial for everyone involved in care, as often the problems post delirium are not understood and can cause issues between the patient and family and friends.”
Raising awareness of delirium is also important, because having the condition can be very scary and a lonely place for a patient. If you are aware of what delirium is, then you can understand why you or your loved one acts a certain way or avoids certain places or situations. It can explain why they seem depressed, why they are panicking. Delirium can affect anyone. It is not just ‘an elderly person’ issue.
Delirium can be caused by a whole host of things like infections, sepsis, constipation, sleep deprivation and medications. No one is too young, too healthy, too fit or too anything to get delirium – it is an equal opportunity thief.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of delirium, visit: www.sign.ac.uk
To read more about Mark’s experiences, read: https://autoimmunedisorderjourney.blogspot.com/