To those who are elderly, frail, vulnerable or with serious underlying health conditions,
We have not forgotten about you.
It must be so hard listening to endless news reports that end with “don’t worry, this illness mainly affects the elderly, frail, vulnerable or with serious underlying health conditions,”. What if that is you?
Our passion as an intensive care community is fixing problems that can be fixed. Yet we often meet patients like you who have problems that cannot simply be fixed. As this virus continues to impact on the world, we will meet many more of you. Although we have fancy machines, powerful drugs and talented staff, none of these things cure every disease. All they do is give us time – time to work out what is wrong, time to hopefully treat it and time for people to get better. But sometimes we already know what is wrong, we already know that there is no effective treatment. And so sometimes the machines offer little, intensive care offers no fix. But hope is not lost. We have not forgotten about you.
As difficult as this is, we will be honest. We will continue to use all of the treatments that may work and may get you back to being you again. We will use oxygen, fluid into your veins, antibiotics, all of the things that may work. But we won’t use the things that won’t work. We won’t use machines that can cause harm. We won’t press on your chest should your heart stop beating. Because these things won’t work. They won’t get you back to being you.
And If these things are still not enough, we will sit with you and with your family. We will be honest, we will hold your hand, we will be there. We will change our focus from cure but most importantly we will continue to care. We have not forgotten about you.
The Intensive Care Unit
Matt Morgan, honorary senior research fellow at Cardiff University, consultant in intensive care medicine, research and development lead in critical care at University Hospital of Wales, and an editor of BMJ OnExamination.
Competing interests: none declared