Fear and Loathing in ER and ICU

The Times Online have just published a brilliantly written and seriously hardcore article by the late Steven Wells, a UK rock journalist who recently died from lymphoma. Steven kept a diary of his time battling cancer in the United States – the article starts like this:

“I’m writing these notes in the ER blitzed off my tits on Vicodin and synthetic heroin. Outside in the corridor some poor bastard who got crushed by a bowling ball stacking machine is screaming like a baby with Tourette’s.

I should be experiencing compassion but instead I’m feeling disappointed. I’ve been brought up by American TV to expect the stabbed, the gut-shot and the Mafia-kneecapped to be fist-fighting with the gangbangers, the crack addicts and the self-mutilating anorexic Goth chicks in ER waiting rooms. Instead there’s just lots of very fat people feeding McDonald’s to even fatter children.

Maybe we should start the story here.This is the tale of a smartarse Brit getting lost in the Philadelphia health system.”

And this is what Steven thought of the ICU:

“I wake up in intensive care, and these bastards — there’s no other word for them — are twisting white-hot corkscrews into my neck, chest and arms so they can pump me full of the magic juju juice. They’re just trying to save my life.

Which they do — leaving me to spend all night hallucinating grim-looking Meat Loaf-video death-biker metaphors every time I close my eyes.

Nearly dying sucks. But not as much as being in intensive care.”

Read the rest here (The Philadelphia Weekly version)

On a side note, Wells’ Wikipedia entry was marked for deletion within 48 hours of his death – a bit harsh if you ask me…

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also the Innovation Lead for the Australian Centre for Health Innovation at Alfred Health and Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of two amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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