On regular hospital floors, during the day, quality staff are available. It's "showtime" at the hospital, where relatives and friends of the patient get to see how caring, nurturing, dedicated, and loving the doctors, nurses, and their staff are. Nighttime at the hospital is quite another story.
Nighttime in ICU is a nightmare.
If you are going to spend time in ICU, I strongly suggest you have someone you know and trust be there all night to advocate for you. Insisting that you have someone there during the night won't win you popularity contests, but it will help ensure that you can avoid the trauma of the very unit that is supposed to take care of you.
After my double mastectomy with reconstruction at a hospital with an excellent reputation, I spent two consecutive nights in ICU, nights so horrific, that I think I could make a living selling t-shirts that say, "I was in ICU, and I lived to tell about it."
At least she whispered. The ICU staff in an adjacent room were singing audibly about one of the unfortunate patients who probably wouldn't make it. I cried, thinking of that person, laying there -- as I was laying there, strapped in -- with a mocking song being the last thing he or she would hear.
By daylight, the smoke screen was back.
Or so I thought.
The second night was worse. I woke up in the middle of the night, parched with thirst, and in near-total darkness. My bed was moved into a dark corner, and I was afraid. I called out for someone to please get me water, but to no avail. I begged for water non-stop and begged for someone to come by and help me because I was now afraid that I would die of thirst. I kept begging for help.
Nobody showed up until dawn.
The day after the I'm-Dying-From-Thirst-But-Nobody-Showed-Up-Last-Night episode, I told my surgeon what happened. He decided it was detrimental for me to be in ICU any longer, so I was moved to a far better unit, one without the words "Intensive Care" in it.
Three-plus years after this trauma, I am still unsettled. But if my experience will help at least one person have an advocate by his/her side during hospital nights, it would make my suffering have more meaning.
Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at http://currents-living-discovery.blogspot.com/, and her cat Hemi blogs at http://www.catterchatter.blogspot.com/. Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World's Strongest Librarian at http://worldsstrongestlibrarian.com/3597/sharing-a-loved-ones-pain-guest-post-by-beth-gainer/.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.