Chapter 6: ICU Delirium
Before Rick’s esophagectomy and subsequent 8 week stay in Duke University Hospital ICU, I’d never heard of “ICU delirium” or any other kind of delirium brought on by hospitalization.
It was heartbreaking to witness.
Honestly, his delirium reminded me of reading about POWs who had been physically tortured and mentally tormented by sleep deprivation and constant noise. He had vivid hallucinations. He was paranoid, fearful, antagonized, and the delirium compounded his physical suffering.
Physicians do not see delirium as particularly life-threatening. So, it takes a backseat to other critical issues, and that makes sense. They will be focused elsewhere.
It’s up to you to advocate for your loved one here. Work with the nursing team. Ask them: “What can be done to prevent or treat delirium?” Ask for a review of medication.
Tips from the White Coats to Help with Delirium
Vanderbilt University has been studying ICU delirium for nearly twenty years and is a part of the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship (CIBS) Center. Dr. Wes Ely, a pulmonologist and professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, considers ICU delirium a “massive public health problem.”
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