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Intensive Care

Not remembering what happened to you is very common

Patients' memories of Intensive Care can often be hazy or “jumbled”. It can be difficult to piece together what happened before being admitted to Intensive Care, and what happened while you were there. Some people remember only the end of their time in Intensive Care, while others remember almost nothing.

Some people are happy not to remember very much, but for others, "not knowing" can be upsetting. Some people are only ready to find out more in the weeks, months and sometimes years after getting home. Others just want to put it behind them. It's completely up to you whether or not you'd like to find out more about what happened in Intensive Care.

Having strange dreams or nightmares is very common

It's really common to have strange and sometimes frightening dreams or hallucinations (sometimes called "delirium"). They can seem so real that it can be difficult to work out whether they actually happened or not. Making sense of your time in Intensive Care can therefore be difficult. In this section, we've provided examples of other people's experiences, including easy to use links to other websites, where you can watch short video clips or listen to voice recordings from other patients.

Would you like to find out more about what happens in Intensive Care?

Some people find it helpful to "fill in the blanks". Others prefer to put it all behind them. There's no wrong or right, and it's completely up to you whether, when and how you want to find out more. In this section, we’ve provided some general information on common equipment and treatments, including how and why they’re used. We’ve also provided some information on routine care, the types of staff involved in your care and the sorts of things they will have done to help you.


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Article: Monitors

Every bed in the ICU has a monitor that will display what we call the patient's “vital signs”. These typically include the heart rate and rhythm (or ECG), blood pressure, oxygen levels (or “saturation”), respiratory (or breathing) pattern and fluid status (CVP or “central venous pressure”).The nurses will keep a constant eye on the monitor and will carefully record the vital signs in the patient's charts.The monitor has in built alarms that will...

Web Link: Muscle wasting in Intensive Care

This link will take you to the ICUSteps website and a to a short video by Dr Zudin Puthucheary on muscle wasting in Intensive Care patients.

Web Link: Music in Intensive Care

Many Intensive Care Units across the UK are introducing live music onto their Units (called "ICUHear"), in the hope that patients and families find this relaxing.Since the Autumn of 2018, musicians have been performing on the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Infirmary, usually a short session every few weeks. Feedback from patients, family members and staff has been really positive so far, and we're hoping that this will become part of routine care.Here is the link to ICUHear, which was...

Document: My epic journey: a poem by a former patient

This is a touching, insightful and inspiring poem written by Rose about her time in Intensive Care and beyond.She has very kindly given permission for us to include it here. My epic journey; a poem by Rose Fraser Edinburgh Time stood still 27 March 2013 At the Royal Infirmary Another world was dark Not knowing was sad Voices, voices repeated Time will test your desire How much do you want to live? Noises, echoes, echoes Ice-cream, Ice-cream Chocolate,...

Article: Nutritional support

Why is nutrition so important in Intensive Care? Being very ill can increase the rate at which the body uses up energy, which means that patients can lose a lot of weight while they're in Intensive Care.Another common effect of very severe illness is muscle wasting,which can affect things like mobility and result in patients becoming tired very easily. Putting weight back on and regaining muscle can often take some time. It is therefore very important that patients are well fed...

Article: Occupational Therapy in ICU

Occupational Therapists play an important role in many Intensive Care Units. They make an important contribution to rehabilitation on and after the ICU.  

Web Link: Parking at the Royal Infirmary

Unfortunately, there is a charge for parking at the Royal Infirmary. This is the link to NHS Lothian's page, where you will find up-to-date information on parking rates. You'll also find information here on drop off and collection areas and disabled parking.

Article: Personal care

Personal care includes things like giving bed baths, mouth care,skin care, moving patients in bed and doing gentle exercises to help keep the patient's joints from becoming stiff.Patients receive a bedbath (a complete body wash in bed) at least once a day and whenever else needed. Mouth care is provided every 2 to 3 hours, using soft moist sponges to clean and moisturise the mouth, and vaseline to stop the lips from cracking.The nurse will also change the position of the...

Web Link: Pet therapy

Some Intensive Care Units across the UK are introducing "therapy pets" onto their Units, in the hope that patients (particularly long-term patients) find this relaxing. These are usually specially trained dogs, and their visits are usually short and very carefully organised. In some cases, patients' own dogs might be allowed onto the Unit for a short visit. Please speak with the nurse in charge to find out more. This link will take you to NHS Lothian's page on pet therapy. 

Document: Physiotherapy and recovery from Intensive Care.pdf

This booket provides information about physiotherapy and exercise during and after a stay in Intensive Care.