The patient perspective below was written by Ruby Vogel in 1976, shortly after she was discharged from the hospital following a cholecystectomy and colon surgery. Her daughter Shannon Perry, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor emerita at San Francisco State University, recently received the document from her sister, also a nurse and former nursing educator, to whom their mother had originally given it.
According to Perry’s sister, who found the document while cleaning out some files, Vogel had thought her daughter could use the information to help her students understand the experiences of patients in the ICU. Some things were different back then—for example, says Perry, a cholecystectomy and colon surgery were major surgeries with several days in the hospital for recovery. But some things stay the same, and this vivid account highlights how patient-centered care—a touch, a hand on the brow—can make the difference. Ruby Vogel died in 1985.
Intensive care put me in a different world—of noises, silly ideas, and feelings. I seemed apart from people. They came and went but I wasn’t people, just that big sore place. I could hear and I could see. People didn’t seem to speak to me nor stay around long enough for my eyes to focus or my lips to form words. In and out. Checking! Checking! Checking! I could see and hear. Family, nurses came in, took a look and left. I was still there.
That awful machine next door, in the next cubicle, pumping away, up, down, up, down. Then another sound! Everyone came running. That noise and in their haste they’d bump my bed. Oh! My tummy!
Sometimes when you come in, touch me, put a hand on my brow, pat my hand, anything so I’d know I wasn’t still floating out in space. Be careful moving beds or even chairs—noises grate on nerves. I hope your shoes don’t squeak or you’re not wearing heel plates. A firm step is fine, but don’t drag your feet, you might as well scoot a chair across the floor.
Talk to me, just a word or two. Please don’t whisper all the time. I can’t hear what you’re saying. When I first come to, be glad, smile, touch me and speak. Lean over so I can really see you and I’ll know I’m back in the swim of humans.