the ventilator – airlift

I was on a ventilator for 12 days, and had numerous dreams and hallucinations during my time under, I have no idea if what went on in my mind was spread across those two weeks, if they occurred during the days that I was apparently awake, or if they even happened in a single day. All I know is the helplessness and hopelessness that I felt were very real to me, and that while I’ve so far been spared of most of the emotional and mental trauma that accompanies those memories, they’ll stay with me forever.

Another memory that I have was being airlifted onto an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. I woke up to the drone of helicopter rotors and could look out of my room, as the wall in front of me was transparent. Outside of my room was the top of an aircraft carrier and a woman was guiding my room down from being held by the helicopter to the aircraft carrier, like the people with wands that guide commercial jetliners at the airport. All of this made sense to me – I was being treated for covid, and I figured that no country wanted us to be within their borders, so the covid patients, like me, were being transported to international waters where we could be treated on a US aircraft carrier.

As I watched out of my room, I grew increasingly frustrated – I wasn’t descending anymore, but I could still hear the helicopter, and the nurse that was now outside my room wasn’t coming in, and I wasn’t being released. Like my other hallucinations, I was completely helpless because I was tied down and couldn’t move. I could see outside of my room, as all the walls were glass, but absolutely nothing was happening – no one was coming to get me or help me. Because I was tied down, I was helpless, and grew increasingly frustrated and felt more and more despair. I also wasn’t able to talk or yell, and, like the other hallucinations, was completely unable to communicate. I wanted to know what was happening and how much longer I would be in this state. More time went on, and nothing changed. At some point, however, one of the nurses began putting on all of their PPE, and the nurse in the full PPE, entered the airlock into my room. After they came into the room I blacked out once again.

In retrospect, this hallucination was probably my mind trying to make sense of the room that I was in during one of the times that I broke through my sedatives. My ICU room had a large window that spanned the length of the room, which could only be partially covered by the drapes in the room (and likely weren’t covered while I was intubated). From my bed, which was parallel (length wise) to the window, I could see out into the hallway into the ICU (the window was to my left, and the loud negative air pressure unit and small outside window was to my right). When my doctors or nurses needed to enter my room, they would put on all of their PPE (gown, gloves, and masks or a helmet respirator) in the hallway and enter my room through the door at the end of the wall with the window (which also had a window). This experience was likely at some point where I watched them gowning up to enter my room, and the helicopter noises that I heard were likely from the negative air pressure unit.

While this hallucination was fairly benign, besides my being unable to move or speak, it set the stage for a few others that followed after it – and it seemingly happened on or before October 31, as one of the hallucinations that built themselves off of this one can be pinpointed to that day.