Ever think about having to have your vital signs monitored?

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:48.
Ever think about having to have your vital signs monitored?
I spent a few nights in the ICU taking turns keeping a patient company.  
 The monitors in each ICU room could carry the vital signs of two patients, so when the nurse was taking care of one ICU patient, the vital signs of the other patient - which the nurse was covering - could be viewed.  The image for this banner shows a few vitals for one patient.  If the vitals ran out of an acceptable range, an audible alarm sounded.  
The ICU is quite a noisy place at night.
Some of the things you can hear are the IV pumps (a quiet whirling sound when they are pumping, and an alarm beep when they occlude, when they sense an air bubble in the line, or when they run dry), breathing apparatuses (on patients with pulmonary problems) which honk like geese flying south,  pills being hammered into powder with mortar and pestle, nurses being paged over the intercom, the air compressing fans which pump up the bed’s air mattresses, the blood pressure cuff being inflated every 20 minutes.
I don’t think the patients in the ICU hear these noises – as they have other concerns.


heart rate, blood pressure, average, oxygen sensor on electronic monitor image jeff buster

heart-rate-banner.jpg69.38 KB
( categories: )


There are so many sounds, lights, and activity in ICU that families and friends become disoriented and fixate on the monitors.  The monitor tells them that there is still life, a heart that beats sort of regularly. When the alarms go off because the IV is finished, or the heart rhythm changes, it is scary until we become so used to it that it is background noise. It is hard to focus on the sick person because of the environment. Is it good to have this unreal buffer? A buffer to the reality that we may lose this person but that the medical system is going to do everything possible to pull them through, but that it comes down to a matter of time and the body of the person to make the call? Can the ICU be made more humane?

The first time I ever saw

The first time I ever saw these type of moniters, no one had prepared me for what I was going to see and I cannot begin to explain how explosive it was to my brain to  walk into a hospital, take elevators, walk down long halls, through a series of door, you begin to pick up faint beeping sounds that get louder, like echos, and then you are thrust into a busy world of machines, wires, monitors, lights not to mention quite zones of whispers and hands ever ready at a moments notice take action if an alarm sounded.

I had a little baby boy that was born very ill in Richlands, Va, in 1980, and he had to be transferred to Charlottesville, Va., childrens hospital when he was 8 days old, I was not allowed to go because I had had a c section - but as soon as I could travel a few days later I went.  No one, not one single person told me one single thing about what I was going to see.  It was so overwhelming - I nearly had a breakdown.  I thought I was going to be able to go in, pick my baby up and hold him - instead I walked into a NICU where he was on a bed under a heating light, with what looked like a dozen wires, and several moniters, an iv in his head, half his hair shaved off and a cut-down in his leg, there were beeps going off on him and other babies - most worse than him -   I have a hard time even thinking about that today.  If somebody had just been kind enough to prepare me for what I was walking into it would have helped a gret deal.  A couple of days later he had surgery and I lived at that hospital for the next month - watching those monitors in total fear.  Then when I got back in Cleveland, We lived between Metro and Rainbow Babies most of the time in ICU until he just went to sleep in my arms one night . 

so very sorry

So very sorry, Jerleen.  


there have beens times when family made it out of ICU and times when they died in ICU. Besides the assault of the senses and the trauma of seeing someone we love in critical or grave condition, there is very little, if any privacy, from the trauma that other families are also experiencing. It is the same in the US in all large medical institutions, and regardless of the outcome, I have always questioned why it has to be like this. Study after study has shown how detrimental the ICU environment is to a patient that is a little bit aware, and how geriatric patients, lose grasp of time and space with the 24 hour bright lights and noise. I lost sense of time and space just being there.

So sorry Jerleen.  Thanks

So sorry Jerleen.  Thanks for sharing that sorrowful time with us.  I know it is painful to relive that memory.  Your baby boy was well loved by you.