"As soon as they are off life support they are out of ICU and onto the Neuro floor.The length of stay on the Neuro floor is usually around 3 weeks then the various REHABs come in to do their evaluations based on the space that is available." ~ Martha
There are many variables which will determine how long the stay in ICU will be; the nature of the injury, the patient's overall health and strength, the extent of other injuries, and whether or not medications are used to prevent the patient from injuring themselves further.
Although it is understandable that you want to spend as much time with the patient as possible during this time, this is a good time for you to tackle some of the arrangements you may have to make. Once the initial crisis is over and the waiting begins, use this time wisely. You will want to be available to the patient when they begin to emerge.
Also be aware that your own energy levels may diminish when the patient is released from ICU. Many people "run on adrenaline" during this period of time and find themselves exhausted at the end of the vigil. You need to take care of your own needs so that you will be in shape, emotionally and physically, to cope with a long recovery period. This injury does not only affect the person who has suffered it, it is a traumatic experience for family and friends as well. It is not uncommon for the family member who has functioned so well during the initial crisis to crash once their reserves run down.
Most of the decisions for care in this acute stage are fairly easy to make as they involve life-saving strategies for the patient. As the patient emerges, decisions about care become more difficult. Prepare yourself by becoming informed. Pace yourself in preparation for an increasing role in decision-making.
You need to follow your heart at this crucial time also. Dealing with pain, loss and grief is a highly individual process. Don't feel guilty about how much or little time you spend in the hospital. If you feel you are helping by being there, that's fine. If you need to take care of your children and home, that's fine too. No one can tell you the best way for you to cope. Keep in mind that the coma patient will most likely not remember the time they spent in ICU, but you will. All we can urge is that you take care of yourself; get enough rest, try to eat properly, and find a few moments here and there for yourself.
Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
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