(KUTV) The intensive care unit at the hospital focuses on keeping critically-sick patients alive. However, a new study out of Intermountain Medical Center shows life after the ICU is also a battle that needs to be taken seriously for patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
Take John Downs as an example. In January of 2015 he started having a hard time breathing and began feeling sick.
“Suddenly in that second round of swine flu that we got, he got hit; and he got hit hard,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, Director of the Center for Humanizing Critical Care at Intermountain Medical Center.
Three days later, he couldn’t breathe. Brown describes John’s lungs as turning into essentially a giant bag of rubber cement because of ARDS. This was when John was put on life support and began his fight to stay alive.
“In the toughest week, you’d go home at night and you’d think and pray, “I hope John is here in the morning. I want this to work and I’m afraid it won’t,’” Brown said.
However, surviving the ICU was not the end of John’s battle. It’s a condition doctors are calling Post-Intensive Care Syndrome or PICS. New research shows, life as a survivor presents unique challenges. These include physical things like needing oxygen for their lungs or having trouble with brain function in terms of memory, concentration, and paying attention.
“It was like my mind lost a lot of its connection so it was running overtime to make up for those,” says John.
For John, this meant severe fatigue, struggling with daily tasks, and not being able to return to work as a pharmacist.
“My processing speed is not as fast as it used to be,” says John.
Mood disorders are also very common with PICS patients. These include conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
John says despite his current difficulties, he’s grateful to still be alive.
“I think generally the community thinks, “Oh he’s better. He lived.” And that’s what we’re grateful for,” says Claudia Downs, John’s wife.
The goal of Intermountain Medical Center’s most recent study about PICS is to use this research in future patients. They hope to do this by identifying a patient’s risk level early on and getting them necessary and customized treatment as soon as possible.