My Microwaved Brain
In my last post about my time in ICU and near-death experience as a result of Flu > Pneumonia > ARDS, I made some mention at the end of the article about the delirium caused by the cocktail of drugs that the anaesthetist(s) used to keep me sedated during my 19 days of unconsciousness. This post attempts to go into further detail on this topic, as I have an increasing desire to have something additional to look back on this major event in my life.
I should mention that I pretty much was awake, if not dreaming or hallucinating for most of those 19 days – at least that’s my recollection. And speaking of recollection, the reason behind this post is to provide a relatively fresh account of that time while it’s still imprinted in my memory.
Being on life-support while your other major organs are failing is clearly a marvel of medicine, so despite my only real “memory” of my time in acute care is the delirium (e.g. no memory of pain or discomfort), I was left with the overwhelming sense that my brain had effectively been “cooked” by the drugs they kept me on. The only way I could describe it afterwards to friends and family was “they took my brain out and stuck it in the microwave for 5 minutes”. I can’t understate the sensation – even now several months later – that I felt and lived almost every minute (27,000+) of those 19 days in an alternate reality. Hopefully, I can try to capture some of this.
Feel free to laugh at the absurdity of my recollected thoughts and memories – I certainly did when I realised that they were a fabrication of a brain trying to survive a major physical trauma.
I’ve naturally tried to group my memories of the delirium into broader themes. It’s worth talking a little bit about the nature of the delirium – at least as I experienced it. The easiest way to explain what it’s like is that there are interconnected threads and overlaps between what I experienced in the real world and how my brain interpreted it. Sometimes these threads of experience when on and on for several hours (it felt) as part of a general theme, some were triggered by external stimuli and my brain tried to rationalise them. Everyone can mostly understand the concept of dreams and dream-state – the obvious difference for me is that the delirium felt more real than dreams, they are definitely more permanent than normal dreams and they lasted a considerable amount longer.
Delirium Theme No.1 – Playstation
I spent almost all of my time on my back. Apparently the staff of the Knox and Alfred hospitals turned me like a sausage on a grill, but from what I remember (which is next to nothing) I was left staring at the ceiling for most of the time. And on that ceiling (next to the ceiling vent which I could write another 500 words about) was some kind of apparatus that led me to believe that it was the next-generation of Playstation equipment. There’s a couple of things that (in my mind at least) led me to believe this to be the case – there was a big controller system at the end of my bed in ICU that appeared to have a steering wheel and handset. The handset was probably true (for inbound/outbound calls etc), but I can’t vouch for the steering wheel.
The manifestation of this PlayStation delirium was that I saw an articulated sensor system above my bed, along with some sensor panels in the ceiling, and even a display screen behind me, which in my prostrate position I couldn’t actually see. I looked at, and analysed this apparatus and set-up for HOURS. I have memories of watching the nurses and analysing the way they used this system to record my physical actions as a recording device. This ‘big-brother’ feeling had quite an impact on me and influenced a number of secondary related deliriums. There was a point where a specialist anaesthesiologist prescribed a medication which actually blurred out anything in my visual spectrum anything relating to “Playstation”. This clearly freaked me out even more.
For whatever reason, I had this thought that my “PlayStation equipped room” was a state of the art ICU installation, and that the hospital (a secondary thought), was upgrading ICU cubicles or rooms. I even had a specific memory of one room being re-painted in a baroque theme, along with the installation of new “PlayStation” equipment.
Guns Across the Hall.
At one point, I thought there was a young patient, across the hall from my ICU bed/cubicle, in his own room who had another PlayStation unit above him. Somehow my delirium made me think that he had control over his Playstation system like a weapon, and that this weapon turned itself into a laser – which OF COURSE was pointed at any movement in my cubicle. When we weren’t fighting with real weapons trying to kill each other, I noticed the cubical beside his that had been emptied. My microwaved brain imagined this room being prepared with new technology (Playstation) at one point, then classical baroque art, dark wallpaper at another.
This apparent ICU room/cubicle setup morphed (a word that will reoccur as this recount continues) into a themed type of scenario. This is because I remember some privacy curtains in front of my bed in Alfred’s ICU. And for whatever reason these privacy curtains were blue, which then became blue with fish emblems. This OF COURSE thematically became what I saw outside of my ICU cubicle space – a FREAKING FISH MARKET – in a HOSPITAL NO LESS. Yes, Delirium clearly has no limits.
There’s one particular Playstation-themed memory where I have this concept of the advanced system that is monitoring me being made into a commercially available product. It turns out that this was somewhat validated (in my mind) by a visitor to me in ICU who was just agreeing with the ramblings of a madman. This thread of thought morphed into an entirely spooky sniper-type scenario where I thought commercially available PlayStation systems would/could turn into laser-directed self-assassination devices. There was an entire mathematical calculation scenario where my melted brain tried to calculate the potential odds of this occurring – this little sub-plot went on for some hours in my head since it delved into deep mathematics, race-differentiation (I had an Asian maths-genius against an Australian – see the next point).
Late in the game, I remember fixating on a mechanical (what I now know to be a ceiling-mounted medical pendant) system at the end of my cubicle in ICU. It looked, from a side profile, like a bong that was used by crack and ice smokers. I had various delirium-induced thoughts about its shape (inverted like a tap), about its colour (several millions of permutations that were actually counted by a Chinese math savant). The whole math calculation led to a world-wide discovery of mathematical prowess in which I managed to understand and fully comprehend the mathematical upper-bound calculation theory.
100 year hospital.
I don’t recall where this thread of thinking came from, but at some point I must have been aware of a plaque on a wall, or a sign sitting on a shelf that triggered a delirium that fixated on that plaque/sign being the name of a couple who made a donation to the hospital over 100 years ago. I remember having trouble making out the names at first on the plaque (I’ve forgotten them now), but then my mind slipped back to that time 100 years before when the donation was made and the plaque ceremony given. I then watched time move forward and saw the donating couple grow-old and pass-on. For a fleeting moment I saw myself and my partner renewing this same ceremony 100 years after the original.
Next door room.
At one point in time, I thought I could see through to the room next door – another ICU cubicle, but more contained like a bedroom. Sometimes the view was opaque, but I could make out movement (I’m pretty sure the temporary opacity was based in fact as my understanding is that some of the glass partitions in the walls of the cubicles are electric glass with switchable opacity). It was weird because the movement seem choreographed and repeated. I thought I could also hear sounds. Eventually I made out that this movement and sounds were from the physical mannequins that were controlled by a very sick child in the room next door. The child’s father would come and play hoops with the automaton on the PlayStation with his son. I recall that room going silent one day – I couldn’t tell whether it was because the child went home, or something else had occurred.
Later (I think) during my stay in the ICU, I had delirium that the occupant of the cubicle next door was a burns victim. My microwaved brain made me think that this meant that the cubicle was hermetically sealed for prevention of infection. This led to the thinking that a nurse treating the victim needed to get access in and out of this sealed chamber. For whatever reason, my mind wandered down this path of variation thinking that the nurse was, in fact, deaf – probably because the sealed room was also sound-proofed. Illogical extensions of thought had me believe that her sensory sensitivity (heightened due to her deafness) meant that she was able to tell when another patient was having issues that other nurses couldn’t detect through sound alone.
This “Next door room” had some other delirium episodes – these are covered later under “Mother’s Death”.
Probably the most extreme delirium memory regarding the PlayStation theme was when I think I confused the sign that was hung over the medical light arm attached to the ceiling that actually read “Fall Hazard” (or similar, due to my height and inability to stand). I must have stared at this laminated red sign for hours, because my cooked brain managed to concoct an entire scenario about “red light shift” and sniper blindness. I imagined that I had a sniper trained on this sign that would take its removal as the signal to “remove” me. This evolved into a mental study of all known civilian sniper attacks, by country and a certain fixation on the fact (according to my Encyclopaedia Delirium) that Australia had the lowest number of civilian sniper-related deaths in the western world. I recall a movie-like scenario thinking about how an Australian sniper took over 2 years of watching and waiting to take out her (yes, her) target.
The “redshift” component kicked in when I suddenly figured out that some snipers simply didn’t take their target because with one eye on the telescopic lens and the other shut, they succumbed to a sensory blindness that didn’t allow for light wavelengths to be transformed correctly into colour signals to “shoot”. For whatever reason I thought there was a sniper positioned in the park across from my hospital who turned up night after night, only to suffer from red-shift blindness and never take the shot at the intended target with the red laminated sign above his bed.
However, there was an instance where a nurse (driven to use meth to keep alert on long shifts, and trying to hide her habit) who went outside on the hospital balcony to take a calming cigarette – the red glowing embers of the tip attracted that patient sniper to take the shot. Almost like a movie, I made up back-story in my own mind about the history of the drug dependence of this nurse, how she hid her addiction (in sports drinks of all things), and a close encounter with an awaiting pregnant couple who were almost also taken out by the sniper.
I’ve mentioned the red sign above my bed. Imagine that this was a red-packet of the Chinese tradition. My delirium had no problem taking this thought and running with it. I had scenarios play out with different values, different messages – cryptic father to son and the like, and then weirdly it morphed into a non-Chinese aspect where it was how much would one civilisation pay to save a life. I watched as different cultures and different regions began bidding using what they thought was valuable and could use as stakes in this game. The oil-rich middle-east won with a high-stake of their entire kingdom of wealth.
One of the more emotional memories I have with this red-letter thread was how I was going to ensure my daughter – 1 and 1/2 years at the time – was going to be looked after I had passed on through the gift of the contents of the red-letter envelope. I have memories of sobbing for a long time at this prospect.
Delirium Theme No.2 – Death in the Family
Clearly death was a central theme of some form during my time in ICU, and my delirium seems to like revolving around this topic. In this theme, I’m confronted with my own mortality, and a death in the family.
One of the more “real” sensations was that I was being visited by my partner’s family from China. Somehow I saw myself in a visiting room (think morgue viewing room) and that had been prepared with presents from my extended family (don’t question the logic of the delirium!). One of these gifts was a Samsung smart-watch (something like the white version of this). My delirium had magically transformed my hospital ID band into a smart-watch. It was paper-thin with a display that activated on movement. But I felt that the hospital staff had accidentally cut the strap too short causing the watch to not operate correctly – hence my magnificent technology not functioning properly. I remember the desperation of not being able to send or receive messages and losing the ability to connect with others – quite a terrifying feeling that I struggled with for hours.
While I’m still lying in that visiting room for patients about to die, I became aware of my extended family from China on their way to visit. So deep was their concern for me that my mind envisioned something terrible happening before they actually managed to make their way to my room. I hear a terrible wail from outside but can’t tell what’s happening! Is it my mother-in-law overcome with stress and worry, or is it the father-in-law that can’t handle the moment?
My mind goes truly ballistic for a short time, watching the overhead extendable exam-light cover to indicate to me (by showing a feminine ’30’s shape – this is something that I struggle to explain) that it was my mother-in-law that suffered such a stressful moment leading up to seeing me that she passed away. There’s a short time where I’m being advised by a nurse that something’s happened and that visiting may be delayed. Reality kicks in at one point where I feel I’m not in a state to be visited having messed the bedsheets and that there’s a rush to remake myself presentable – slightly aware that visitors have something more concerning going on.
And so I’m back in my cubical, and I’m aware that something terrible has happened (in my mind at least). The room next door suddenly becomes busy with activity, and the curtains are drawn. I struggle to see what’s happening and can only tell that people are very sombre and are walking past my cubicle whispering in sombre tones. I see monks (!!) and hear prayer sounds and this only deepens my worry.
At one point I manage to see some activity in the room/cubicle next door and see a body lying on a bed surrounded by quietly weeping and sobbing people. The crowds clears and I am left watching from my own hospital bed, the grief-stricken image of my father-in-law mourning the loss of his wife.
After a buddhist ceremony (attended and led in Chinese by the most non-buddhist co-worker I know – but who does happen to know a smattering of Chinese), I watch as my father-in-law gets increasingly upset about the way his wife has been cared for and his grief deepens. My delirium forms the opinion that I must know what has happened and that he wants to express that they came here to wish me to get better, but the hospital will have none of it. He’s forcefully removed from the hospital after some time trying to let me know that he’s here and that they both came all this way to wish me the best.
As his other daughter is partially deaf, and he knows that I have sensitive hearing, I watch in an almost spirit-like way of him trying to reach me to let me know they are here. He’s now outside the hospital using a large piece of timber striking the ground to make a low-frequency thump, knowing that I can detect this and know that it is him. This particular delirium thread may be intrinsically tied to something going on around me that I wasn’t aware of. I distinctly recall something about my hearing (I actually had my ears covered with gauze-wool pads to help block out sounds so that I could rest properly).
My seriocomic death scene roll
At some point I die. I’m just left as a spirit to watch over what ensues in the aftermath. As I lie in-state, I am looking out across from my ICU bed to a set of large screens where someone is trying to provide a visual homage to my life. Clearly most of the available content is only available online, and through this blog/domain. I watch as a computer guru extracts the key points from my now-defunct blog, makes a collage of the travels and experiences of my life and makes it into a movie-credit type scenario to play over my death-theme (I can’t recall exactly but wouldn’t be surprised if it was ‘Freebird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd or ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin).
To prove the delirium has no bounds, there’s an element of this particular thread where there’s some concern about how this ‘death-theme’ will display/render on different displays (I know not why). I watch as different resolutions are tried and then it gets a little ridiculous when in-car entertainment systems are considered (like that’s a likely place for this to be seen!). There’s an issue with Lexus and Mercedes in-vehicle display screens of all things, but this little deviation soon dissipates.
Delirium Theme No.3 – The Spy Universe
Possibly one of the most unexpected mental experiences I had was related to my current place of work at the time. It’s a multi-story commercial building just around the corner to the Alfred Hospital (and actually physically backs on to the hospital). I don’t recall what triggered this particular thread of thinking but I began to imagine a blending of my work-place and the hospital. The workplace ended up transforming somewhat from cubicles to hallways to a multilevel building with a central atrium. Rather than office space, it became a hybrid hospital/research facility.
I have distinct memories of people I had worked with taking up nursing responsibilities – putting in my IV line or adjusting other parts that were keeping me alive. I think it was this double-life aspect that made me think that I was, in fact, living in an alternate reality – where my co-workers were trying to keep up a facade of being white-collar office workers when in fact they were medical personnel running a massive trial on the effects of psychotic medication.
This then warped into scenarios that extended beyond me, where I saw other people being tested and evaluated on the effectiveness of the drug trials that meant that they “lived” a reality that wasn’t real. My microwave brain ran with this idea and I had entire movie-length memories of watching this all unfold, extending to having mob-style criminals being kidnapped and brought in, drugged to make them feel they were someone else like a spy and give up their secrets or have them perform fake-murders so that they conned into thinking they were caught, so they could be coerced into providing confessions or other revealing information. The whole fake-murder aspect of these memories seem to be particularly gruesome in detail.
A peculiar fact that most people wouldn’t know is that the helipad for the Alfred Hospital is adjacent, if not a direct extension of the ICU ward – this makes sense as emergency trauma needs fast access from the Rescue Helicopters. Patients at the Alfred will testify to the frequency of the comings and goings of those rescue helicopters and the sound of these threaded themselves into this particular theme quite nicely.
As part of the wider ‘spy universe’ theme, I remember having thoughts of suddenly being called into action and jumping on the helicopter and off into action. Sometimes more reality crept in and I was “wheeled” into the helicopter. Other times I was on a plane for work (to Mexico!). One time I thought I was stuck on the tarmac at an international airport with the back-end of the plane open (into the cargo area?), watching cargo being moved about, feeling hot humid airport air at night-time, arguing with a co-worker who morphed into a nurse who was really trying to convince me that I was in no state be flying.
The most humorous helicopter ‘memory’ I have is being on the Prime Minister’s plane or helicopter as he was picking up his prize stud-horse. My brain tried to stretch this particular thread into being dropped off at my home (on my helipad of course) by helicopter – even worrying about the neighbours and the noise!
It wasn’t until I visited the Alfred ICU only recently that I joined some of the dots of this particular theme. The ICU nurse showing me around showed me an area called the viewing bay at the end of the ICU space that they wheeled patients to ‘get them some exposure to daylight and different stimuli’. This viewing bay actually overlooks the helicopter landing pad – which isn’t too dissimilar to the tarmac of an airport. I don’t have any photos, and there are few that exist online, but this may give you a sense of what the actual ICU interior looks like:
Not related to the ‘Spy Universe’ but directly connected to being moved to the viewing bay was this change in scenery for me from the ICU cubicle that dominated many of my delirium thoughts. However this change must have some dramatic effect on me as I had a strong sense that I was now in a completely different location (Queensland of all places), and the atrium area of the ICU building made me feel I was stuck in a large shopping centre. Whether it was because I was on a sensory high, the sound must have made me feel as if we were in the middle of large tropical storm – becoming a hurricane. I have memories of telling people to be safe and take care driving (to real people who have recalled this to me), worried about the helicopter not being able to do safe extractions (the rescue helicopter playing its part), and so on.
Delirium Theme No.4 – Stereotypes
The lead-in to this particular memory isn’t clear as I have a feeling that I’ve actually dreamed part of this before I fell ill, however, I ended up dreaming that I was in Miami, Florida. A friend of mine has a connection to this area of the world and I spent a lot of my time several years ago hanging out with him and following along on some of his exploits. There’s a connection between this friend and a relative of his that builds luxury houses, so then it must of made perfect sense for my microwaved brain to imagine me in Florida, helping my friend and his relative on the building sites of some of these luxury houses.
Some ethical or moral dilemma occurred where it seems I was dragged into a scene where some renovations were being conducted without the knowledge of the owners, or that the work wasn’t sanctioned – I don’t recall the specific detail. During one of these excursions, we gained entry into the garage of a luxury canal-front property to do some replastering work. There was a large boat and some fancy cars in the garage. At the smallest sound we’d all hide – sometimes under the cover of the boat, sometimes in the ceiling space of the garage and so on. I imagined that we were suddenly disturbed by a real estate agent entering the property to show a prospective buyer.
At this point, my mind went on its own tangent into the real estate market and offerings in the Miami waterfront.
When I came back to the garage scene, I was forced to hide, along with the others. I chose to climb up into the garage ceiling space that had been partially clad. Suddenly I had a searing pain in my side – I couldn’t breathe – worse, in the situation where I thought I found myself I couldn’t yell for help in case it drew attention to us being illegally in this property. There must have been something in reality that was causing me such significant discomfort as it was bordering on unbearable. If I do have any recollection of the pain and suffering as part of my time in the ICU then this was my mind’s way of dealing with it. I was pinned for a crazy amount of time – in line of sight of my co-offenders (no longer my friends at this point). Such was my disgust and pain at being in this particular situation for what seemed an eternity I had the very real feeling of absolute resolve never to forgive those that put me in this predicament. Not only was doing anything illegal a foreign concept to me, but the pain and discomfort was something I had never experienced.
I did eventually manage to get myself extricated from this situation, but I can’t (at the time of writing) be clear on whether I was transported by ambulance to the hospital; get helped out of the ceiling and drive away with my accomplices; or arrested by police after being abandoned to my fate. I actually think my delirium let me live each of those scenarios.
One of the realities of the ICU at the Alfred was the ethnic diversity of the staff that supported the functioning of the place. From the nurses, the doctors, the randoms and the cleaning staff. For me, this ended up being an extremely confronting delirium experience. My brain mixed the alternate reality of being in Miami, with some of the sensitivity around ethnicity and my own inherent stereotypes. While the specifics are quite hazy, it was clear that I was now in a hospital setting, except that I was in Maimi, USA. I felt that my inability to move meant that I was being forced to confront my own biases, prejudices and bigotry – and indeed I did confront them. I remember having face-to-face conversations with people of all race, color and position challenging why I thought who they were and what they did. This had a profound impact on me lasting to this day.
Not related to the Miami theme, but similar in how confronting some delirium experiences can be one that I had related to my care from the nurses. I should make it quite clear that anyone who spends any amount of significant time in a hospital comes away from the experience with absolute reverence for the nursing staff – they are quite clearly amazing people.
This particular memory centres around a particular nurse who I have no idea whether existed in any way shape or form in real life. A lot of this experience is made more confronting as it appeared to me when I felt I was much more lucid. I was cognizant of being in a hospital, of being immobile and of much of the medical equipment around me.
I felt I had a specific type of interaction with this nurse, who was middle-aged. She was a ‘no-crap’ type, and I was clearly not being as helpful as I could be – resisting my breathing tube I think was the one specific thing that was causing her to become impatient with me. I remember have an almost inaudible grunting argument about the clock on the wall and how the seconds had went backwards and had 13 hours rather than 12.
Every time that she came to my cubicle to care for me she would draw close the curtains that provided privacy to each cubicle. I must have drawn a crazy conclusion from this activity – what if it wasn’t my privacy, but hers? Lying on a hospital bed and unable to move, I could only look up. So I could only see people from the waist up – this made me think about what was happening below waist-level.
My delirium then became about this nurse who as she came into my cubicle, would draw the curtains closed. She would then either take off her prosthetic legs and work around me on the stumps her legs. Or she would shift into a wheelchair as she worked. If someone called for her or wanted to come in, she would park the wheelchair and reattach her prosthetics. I felt that I was the only one privy to this, but thought that she didn’t know because I was unconscious most of the time.
I remember in my delirium that I could look through the cubicle window to the nursing station. Every day the nurse visited, she would cross a line through the day on the calendar on the wall of the station. Above it was a picture of a Swiss mountain landscape. At some point I am aware that this particular nurse is about to leave the hospital on extended leave – on holiday I thought to this Swiss location. In my delirious state I tell her in confidence that her ‘secret’ is safe with me – I won’t tell. Her response is one of shock and anger, but she says nothing and leaves.
What feels like weeks later, she returns! But this time as she closes the curtains behind her as she enters the cubicle, something is different. I express my sincere apologies about making a deal out of her disability – almost begging to be forgiven for the way I penetrated her wall of privacy. She appears cold and unfeeling in her response. She gives a wry smile and I look down towards her legs to see a space-age high-tech system similar to a Segway. She tells me that she took leave to visit Apple for a trial of this amazing new device and that I threatened her secrecy around this, debunking the Swiss holiday excuse, and almost caused the trial not to go ahead.
She tells me she wants to teach me a lesson about jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about people with no respect for their privacy or personal situation. The way she tells me this makes me feel terrified. Suddenly I find myself being undressed and she’s doing the same. She’s now up on my hospital bed next to me in a spooning position and she pulls out her phone and takes a photo of us in this compromising position. She redresses and dresses me and threatens me that if I think of revealing the truth about her or if she hears me making bigoted or discriminatory remarks about others she’ll publish the photo online and I’ll know the feeling of being exposed for something that is untrue.
Obviously this is a self-lesson in the most confronting sense. I will never forget this lesson, regardless if it was one of my own microwaved brains making.
Not all of my nursing encounters were like the Robo-Nurse one. You have to remember that beyond the immovable objects of a cubicle, the only interactions I had on a daily basis were really with the nursing staff (I rarely recall the doctors in the ICU). This along had enough of a sensory trigger for some of my delirium.
One nurse was of Asian decent – Japanese I think. I have no idea of knowing whether this was true in reality or not. She was always quiet, always calming and smiling. She would be the one nurse that would put a cold towel on my forehead, or a nice drink. I must have really wondered why she always smiled and was so nice as my mind slipped into her own personal history – watching like a documentary – her life growing up in post-WW2 Japan. Her family had been taken in the war and she grew up an orphan. But when she was a young nursing student she fell violently ill herself and ended up hospitalised.
Suffering and almost dying, she was looked after by a kindly old nurse that was mute. She calmly and quietly looked after the young nursing student back to health, but sadly died on the day the young nursing student was released from hospital. The old nurse had made such an impression on this young nursing student that she promised herself that she would act the same way for every patient she cared for.
Delirium Theme No.5 – Errant Family
One of the weirder delirium experiences I had involved my niece (who’s in her late teens). Possibly following on from another thought-thread had me thinking that she was now in Melbourne. I don’t recall the specific details, but at some stage, she was visiting me in the hospital – by which at this time I had been moved from the ICU into a general ward. I noticed that she was looking gaunt and fidgety – indicative of possible drug use. This caused me great alarm and a series of events that I imagined occurred outside of the hospital meant that she herself was arrested and hospitalised. I became aware of this an tried to confront her about her drug dependence and underlying issues.
You have to remember that I was acutely aware that I was myself in hospital and effectively still bed-ridden, but that didn’t stop me from chasing her around either in a wheelchair or on my rolling hospital bed! It was confronting as I was trying to deal with the emotional reasons that would have let to her be in such a state, and I felt physically and mentally drained by my own limitations in being able to help – constantly tethered to breathing apparatus and the like.
This particular delirium must have been post-ICU because I was now more acutely focussed on aspects of the general-room ward, still under heavy sedation.
I must have mentally succeeded, as the thought-thread then morphed into my niece becoming a trainee-nurse (of course). My mind ran with this idea and amalgamated my New Zealand upbringing, my relationship with my father and extended family. I envisioned another complete back-story where my niece was attending a heavy metal concert at a small grungy pub and was called to attend both my father and myself both being hospitalised in the same room. My poor niece was then subjected to the more unpleasant parts of looking after patients who can’t move or require toilet assistance. The change in drugs from ICU to general ward must have been a little trippy as I have some recollection of her not just having to deal with normal hospital activity, but snakes and spiders (I mean Indiana Jones quantity) in the wards.
Spending 19 days under heavy sedation and a variety of other drugs is something most people will never get to experience, nor being that close to death. While I’ve tried to capture this intense period of my life in some detail, it’s hard to explain actually how much detail there really was. Each of these threads and delirium experiences spanned hours and every second of those hours was painted in painful detail and action. I’ve provided a very distant and blurry view of something I experienced in IMAX-level High-Definition scope and detail.
Again I’d like to make special mention to the remarkable people that took care of me – the doctors, the nurses and all the unseen and non-mentioned people behind the scenes that work diligently to keep people alive every day. If you’re working in this type of environment and reading this, please know how remarkable and special you really are.
People often ask me if this experience has been life-changing. The short answer – now 12 months on – is not really. I’m back in my old routines trying to live my life the way I did before I fell ill. There are some aspects that will stay with me forever however, the confronting of my own prejudices and bigotry (which I didn’t think were bad at all on any scale) and propensity to stereotype I am still dealing with. Things that used to worry me before no longer do – I’m much more able and willing to let things go.
Post-Script: This post referenced the word delirium 39 times, and almost every time I spelled it wrong.