ICU Delerium

Dennis was admitted to the Neuro-trauma ICU of St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth MN, 90 miles from our home in Hayward. It was past visiting hours but after they got him settled in they let me come in and see him. I watched them do neuro checks on him. He was weak on the left side but there was movement, and his face didn’t seem asymmetric. He was joking with the nurses, telling them all about how it felt. He was still on IV medication to keep his blood pressure in a safe range.

I stayed overnight with a friend and was back the next morning. Not much had changed as they tried various meds to keep his blood pressure low. Another CT scan showed there hadn’t been additional bleeding from the night before. The free blood was kind of migrating around though, like a bruise that changes shape as it ages.

Thursday, still in ICU, Dennis was more lethargic. He would open his eyes if asked but he looked sick. They were having a hard time with his blood pressure and giving him higher doses of IV med, as well as fluids and electrolytes. Friday when I visited, I had a hard time getting Dennis to wake up. He didn’t interact with us. It was like he was sedated. It was explained to me that this was a common progression as inflammation was often peaking on the second and third days.

That night back at home, I got a call from the hospital. Dennis had been having a hard time breathing. And then, as they were suctioning to clear his airway, he actually stopped breathing. They intubated him and put him on a ventilator. I drove that night to my friend’s house again, wanting to be close in case anything more happened. As soon as visiting hours started the next morning I went to get the story. This was day #4 in the ICU. He looked very peaceful now that breathing was not so much work.

I couldn’t begin to imagine what was going on inside his head. He was somewhat more alert, opening his eyes a lot more on days #4 and 5. He could still follow orders to move fingers and toes. The biggest difference now was that he could not talk, being intubated. I could tell there were things he wanted to say but it was getting very frustrating.

As it got closer to our family reunion, August 4 – 8, people were arriving at home. I spent part of several days at home, but was at the hospital for hours every day. There was not much I could do except let the staff know, from experience, what Dennis was like and what I thought he wanted. There were conversations about resuscitation, feeding tubes, and DNR status that were kind of scary, but fortunately I knew Dennis wanted to have every chance to live.

On day #7 my brother Gary and Lyn went with me. It was upsetting to them, and frustrating to Dennis. He was very tired and we didn’t stay very long. Tubes and wires everywhere. Alarms going off. Phones ringing. Confusion of loud voices from the other half of his semi-private room. We were starting to understand the term “ICU delirium”.

All of these (and more) connected to poor Dennis.

One thought on “ICU Delerium

  1. My dear Shirley,

    As I am reading your blog, my heart hurts for you and for Dennis…. We keep on praying.

    Love you,



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