Now that I’ve survived my month of ICU (and actually enjoyed it–love that high acuity stuff), I should clear up some misconceptions about the ICU that I definitely had coming in (and that likely most people have about ICUs).
You walk through an Intensive Care Unit and see almost everyone totally sedated and out of it: on a ventilator, with lines going in their arms, legs, necks, urethras, and rectums, and lines of plastic tubing entrapping them, and you think, My God, why are we keeping these poor people alive on a ventilator? They’re too sick to make it, just let them go already! Americans don’t know how to let their loved ones go!
So it turns out: while most people in the ICU at any one time are really sick and totally out of it, every day there’s at least a few people who are getting better, getting various tubes removed from them, and actually getting out of the ICU. I had this big impression that few people make it out of an ICU–that most people die, and the ICU is some sort of “last ditch” effort. While it’s true that we can’t save everyone, and some people are just too sick for us to save, the vast majority of our patients did really well after suffering some seriously major insults to their bodies. It’s truly miraculous what people’s bodies can deal with with some support during the really bad times from the ICU.