After an existing minor infection became dramatically worse following open heart surgery, John Palmer found himself in a coma over Christmas and New Year of 2014 to 2015. He had developed septicaemia, and remained in the coma for almost three weeks with his wife, Majella Anning, daily at his bedside. He tells us about his experience and why he’s believes our Support Life Appeal is so important.
‘I’d been unwell for some months and was sent by my GP to have cardiac tests. The initial tests were inconclusive so I was transferred to King’s, where they quickly discovered that actually I had a critical coronary artery disease.
‘I was down to about 18-20% heart function, so the next morning I had a quadruple heart procedure’.
‘I came out of sedation and seemed to be on the road to recovery, when four days later I developed severe breathing problems and a temperature. I was then diagnosed with septicaemia and moved to the Critical Care Unit.
‘I was put in an induced coma – I came out of it briefly but deteriorated again so was put back under for three days until I eventually came out fully.’
A traumatic time
‘My memories are very fragmentary and brief. I was struggling to get a grasp on where I was and I was dreaming and hallucinating.
‘I’d be talking to the nurse but then drift off. I was referring to things that I’d dreamt as though they were experiences that he would know about – that was quite difficult.
‘I was experiencing delirium. On one occasion I remember trying to work out which buses I could get home from Cairo, because I was convinced the hospital was in the middle of the desert somewhere near there.
‘The nurse, James, was fantastic. His voice and manner would change abruptly and he’d say, ‘Mr Palmer! Where do you think you are? What’s your wife’s name?’ and so on. It helped bring me back to reality.
‘Helping people with delirium getting a fix on reality will be important in the new Critical Care Centre. The actual immediate environment was so banal and lacking in any normalcy. I think that to be able to look out into ‘the real world’ – something that you can relate to from your own experience – will be vitally necessary to improved recovery from these kinds of experiences.’
In our new Critical Care Centre, we want every room to have floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out over the park. Our goal is to dramatically reduce the psychological and emotional stress on patients of their experience of critical care and enhance their longer term recovery. You can help make this a reality.