Every year more than 2,500 patients are treated in the intensive care units at The James Cook University Hospital and the Friarage Hospital following life-threatening critical illness.
It’s a physically and emotionally demanding time for everyone involved, but for many patients, the real challenge starts when they are discharged from hospital.
Whether it’s learning to live with a physical disability, coping with nightmares or rebuilding their confidence, it can be a life-changing time for patients and their loved ones.
But on Teesside no one has to go through this alone as former critical care patients and relatives have joined up with local health professionals to run the ICU Steps Tees support group.
The group meets every month at St Cuthbert’s Parish Centre in Marton to bring together people who have been through similar experiences.
It is led by Michael Power, whose daughter Angela was treated in ICU at James Cook 21 years ago when she experienced complications after giving birth.
Michael said: “A lot of people who have been in intensive care don’t know what’s happened or where they have been but as soon as they speak to the group they realise they are not alone and they can see a way forward.”
Lindsay Garcia, nurse consultant, critical care said: “It is a privilege to be part of ICU Steps. Maintaining such close and strong relationships with our patients and relatives after intensive care gives us a fantastic opportunity to learn from them. It allows us a unique opportunity to shape and improve the services that we deliver based on real time feedback from patients and relatives.”
For more details visit our ICU Steps page or call 01642 624328 or 282546.
Michael and Joanne Palmer had only been married for two months when Michael was rushed into James Cook with severe sepsis in 2014.
It was a traumatic time as Joanne was warned that Michael might not survive, but after two weeks in a coma on the intensive care unit he pulled through.
“It is very scary because you wake up and you don’t know where you are,” said Michael, 48, of Acklam. “Two years later I still have nightmares and flashbacks.
“But the ICU Steps group has been a great help – they are a lifeline. People talk about their experiences and you realise that you are not the only one going through it.
“Without the group I do not know what we would all do. I don’t think I would have survived emotionally without them.
“I have a different outlook on life now – I just live for today!”
Back in 2011 Tony Bousfield was rushed into James Cook and diagnosed with two brain abscesses and a build-up of fluid on the brain.
Tony 57, of Darlington, spent a challenging three months in intensive care and neurosurgical high dependency.
He faced multiple operations, medical complications and a further two months in hospital before he could progress to a long period of rehabilitation and was left with visual cognitive and physical disabilities and no recollection of his time in hospital.
“Your life changes so dramatically,” said his wife Diane. “Tony now has challenging epileptic seizures and I’ve become a full time carer, but I’m just pleased that he’s still here!
“People often come out of life threatening critical illness as somebody different and I think as a group we can support each other through that.
“We came to the ICU Steps group because we wanted to give something back for the care he received.
“It’s amazing how much you have in common with the other families.”
Tony added: “Everyone has a lot of empathy and understanding because they have been through it themselves.”
Diane added: “We will both always be eternally grateful for the dedication and skill of all the clinical team at the James Cook involved in Tony’s care who made his fight for survival possible and for the continuing support we receive from the intensive care team through our support group – thank you all!”