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What to Expect
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What to Expect in the Intensive Care Unit

We understand that having a family member or friend in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) can be a very stressful time. Please feel free to ask any member of the ICU team any questions you may have.

 You may not recognize your family member or friend the first time you see them in the ICU.

It may be necessary for them to have a breathing tube. While the breathing tube is in place they will not be able to speak, drink or eat. If needed, they will be fed through a tube placed through the nose and into their stomach.

 

 

ICU patients are closely watched by the nurse who is specially trained in critical care. You may also notice a small tube in the wrist (called an arterial line) that records blood pressure and will let the nurse draw blood samples. Along with all the monitoring equipment, patients may have an intravenous line or IV.  They will most likely have a catheter in their bladder so we can measure their urine.

If there are other special lines in place the nurse taking care of the patient will explain their purpose to you.

Often many issues that the patient is dealing with can cause their body to swell with fluid. You may hear it referred to as edema. There is little that can be done to prevent the swelling. The nurses may try to decrease the effect by keeping the head of the bed slightly raised and the hands elevated on pillows. Rings may need to be removed to protect the blood flow to the fingertips. The eyes may also swell, and the inside lining of the eyelid may stick out with the swelling.

Sometimes fluids, chemicals, and toxins in the blood will make a person sleepy, confused, nasty, forcefull or even in a coma-like deep sleep. Nutrition, fluids and other therapies may be ordered in order to help manage issues with the blood.  

 

Even though the patient is not talking or is in a deep sleep it is important to keep speaking to them. You can help by talking in soothing tones, telling stories, and supplying them with normal information to keep the brain active, yet calm. The voice of someone they know is helpful in most cases.

 

Hamilton Health Sciences • Hamilton, Ontario • 905.521.2100

Disclaimer: Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) offers Google Translate to better facilitate access for our community. However, HHS makes no claims regarding the accuracy of translations. Any and all health information should be verified by a health care professional.