Children in the ICU

By • Published: July 29th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For adults, memories of being in intensive care can be vaguely unsettling.

But for children, these memories can be downright frightening.

Many children have extremely intense, psychedelic memories of the intensive care ward.

In what is believed to be the largest-ever study of what children remembered about the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, one-hundred-two youngsters older than seven were interviewed by researchers associated with St. George’s Hospital in London.

Doctors discovered that nearly one in three children experienced delusions or hallucinations.

Furthermore, children with delusional memories more often had symptoms of post-traumatic stress than children with factual memories.

The findings appear in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Half of the children had only scraps of memories, mostly of family members.

But a third of them saw or heard things that never happened.

They remember throwing stones at massive spiders, or seeing children taunting them from the foot of their beds.

Two of the children reported a strong sensation that their parents had been replaced by impostors.

A sixteen-year-old boy remembered thinking, “These aren’t my hands! This isn’t my head!”

A fourteen-year-old girl saw “see-through scorpions” on her feet and on the walls.

The hallucinations occurred more frequently when children were being weaned from commonly prescribed sedatives.

The researchers do not suggest discontinuing the drugs.

But they do want medical professionals and families to know that children may be having these disturbing visions.

After all, the I-C-U is tough enough on a kid.