transferring to the icu

Me, on 60 liters of oxygen; sadly, this was one of two pictures I took the entire time I was hospitalized.

On October 20 I was transferred to the ICU. I don’t recall how the decision was made, or how I was told about it, but I remember one of my nurses coming in and removing all of the electrodes (I think there were 7 or 8) that were placed across my chest. She then took the diagnostic box that all of the electrodes and wires were attached to. After she removed all of them, she took out a new set of electrodes (the same number that was removed) and placed them on my body; however, these electrodes had long wires that would eventually plug into the 24/7 monitoring system in the ICU.

Shortly thereafter, nurses moved me from the bed that I was in to an ICU bed that was brought into my room to transport me to the ICU. I remember thinking that they were really good at it – they had a few nurses pick up the sheet I was in on my bed, and deposit me, with the sheet, on the ICU bed that they had wheeled into my room. This bed became my home for the next couple of weeks. (Note: I’m not sure if I remember this correctly; there may have been two transfers – one to a bed that they wheeled around the hospital and then to the final ICU bed. This whole time period is extremely fuzzy.)

While it was serious that I was being transferred to the ICU, it was also great – I no longer had the diagnostic box attached to me, but was hooked up to external monitoring, and the ICU bed, while hard, constantly adjusted to my back. Apparently I’m in a small, but very real, subset of people that love the ICU bed. I was thankful for the reprieve from the infernal diagnostic box and, after a single night, most of the knots in my back disappeared. At some point between getting admitted and transferring to the ICU, they started giving me pain killing patches for my lower back, due to the knots in it that were pressing on my spine – that first night in the ICU fixed that problem, and I didn’t need any treatment for my back the rest of the time I was in the hospital (even though they kept it in my charts).

After I was admitted to the ICU, they also changed my nasal canula to a high flow one, and eventually increased my oxygen level to 60 liters (a normal oxygen mask has a maximum rate of 10-15 liters of oxygen per minute – most people get between 1 to 6 liters – the high flow oxygen had a maximum rate of 60 liters). At this point, the high flow oxygen did most of my breathing for me – it would fill up my lungs without me having to inhale, so all I had to do each time was exhale. Being on the high flow oxygen was akin to trying to drink out of a firehose. In the ICU they also gave me a bedpan and a urinal, for me to go to the bathroom on my bed. I had experience with the urinal from when I broke my ankle, several years before, and hated it, so I asked a doctor if they would be able to give me a portable toilet – he didn’t think that there would be any problem with it, and so they brought one to my room. At this point, I was thankfully at least able to use the bathroom with some semblance of normality.

While in the ICU I was unable to sleep, due to the difficulty of everything, and would only get some relief the short time I would be able to turn around and “prone” myself before my coughing fits got the best of me. I was completely exhausted and my constant coughing would take everything out of me.

During all of this, I knew that my body was failing, and that I was dying (there was a short period where I was improving, but by this time things were progressing downhill fast). In some of the conversations that I had with Eunice during this short period, I told her that it would stink if I went through all of this to end up on a ventilator, and I just wanted what I was going through to end – it was torture, and I was honestly ready to just get thrown on a ventilator, since I knew that the oxygen wasn’t working. Every hour it was harder to breathe and my condition got worse. I wasn’t worried about myself – I knew that if I died I would start eternity with Christ, and I wasn’t as worried about Eunice, because she was strong and I knew she tough enough to be able to recover from losing me, but I was terrified about what would happen to my daughters. I didn’t want to leave my 3 year old and 6 year old without a father, and without memories of their father. I committed myself to start writing emails to my daughters (which, due to only being in the ICU for one full day before getting intubated, meant I only ended up writing a single email), telling them I love them, and I sent them the only picture that I could of myself – being hooked up to the IV’s and the high flow oxygen. However, I didn’t have much left in me, so all I could write to them was a short message.

Here’s an update I posted on Facebook on October 20:

If you haven’t heard, last night I was moved to the ICU. Essentially my O2 levels would crash pretty hard when I would exert myself (anytime I moved for the most part, ie getting up to pee). Since I’ve been in the ICU I’ve been on high flow oxygen, which has me stabilized when I’m not moving. My O2 levels have been pretty consistent when I’m not moving, but it still crashes when I move (though less seriously on the high flow). I’m not sure how long I’ll be in the ICU, but so far my condition has been stable and not deteriorating.On the good end – the ICU bed is about five million times more comfortable than the regular beds, and it’s managed to get rid of the (extreme) back pain I was having from the previous bed. It also looks like the fever that I’ve had since last Saturday, when I first came down with covid has finally broken… and the most exciting part for me is that the diagnostic box that was pretty much on my chest the whole time I was in the normal room no longer haunts my dreams (for some reason everytime I closed my eyes it would haunt me and caused me to have a lot of short dreams), so sleep in the ICU has gotten a lot better.I’m definitely not out of the woods yet (but the medical team here is great, and I’m on a ton of drugs and a clinical study), so continued prayers are definitely needed. Please also pray for Eunice as she deals with this and handles my dad’s sickness as well. My dad’s in critical condition still, and we’re not sure if he’ll make it.

Eunice’s updates:
10/20/20 – Ben was transferred to ICU very early this morning and put on high flow oxygen. Ben’s Dad is now on dialysis along with being on the ventilator. Gwen is doing well, she still has a fever but it’s being controlled with Tylenol. Thank you everyone for your prayers, concern, and support, we feel very loved. I’ll try to update this status daily to keep you all informed.

10/21/20 – Today is not a good day so far. Ben said they increased his oxygen from 60% to 70%. Ben is having a really hard day mentally and physically. He is getting tired of fighting so hard and struggling every second to breathe. Every movement he makes hurts a lot and plummets his oxygen. Please say an extra prayer for him today. If you can, please text him and send your love and encouragement. He needs as much as he can get right now. If you need his number, please private message me.

I have not spoken to the doctors yet about Ben or his Dad but should have news after lunch time. The girls are doing good, Tori is really worried about her Dad and Gwen’s fever broke yesterday. Thanks everyone.

10/21/20 pm – I just talked to Ben’s doctor, he’s about the same. They have his oxygen set at 70%. They’re happy he’s where he’s at and not declining. They said he’s doing good, still in critical condition. The next 24-48 hours should tell us a little more and hopefully he’ll start improving in a day or two. At the best, he’ll still be there for at least a week. They’re going to hold off on the plasma for now since he’s steady and they don’t want to risk anything to make him worse. If he declines, they might consider the plasma.

As for Ben’s dad, it doesn’t look good. They started dialysis last night and he’ll be getting dialysis daily. His kidneys are pretty much shot. There are some glimmers of hope like his oxygen requirement has gone down but overall he’s still severely sick. He is heavily sedated. The doctor said not many patients that are in his state make it and even if they do, they have a hard and long recovery. Please keep praying.

One Reply to “transferring to the icu”

  1. Ben, I think this is so powerful to share your story and remember. Praise God for his mercies and getting you through your COVID battle (you had a severe case). It is a Grace for you, Eunice and your girls. Prayers for continued healing.

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