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Editorials |

The Critical Care Family Assistance Program : Caring For Those Who Care

Curtis N. Sessler, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: Richmond, VA
 ,  Dr. Sessler is the Orhan Muren Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. He is the Medical Director of Critical Care and Medical Director of the Medical Respiratory ICU, Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Richmond, VA.

Correspondence to: Curtis N. Sessler, MD, Box 980050, Richmond, VA 23298; Csessler@hsc.vcu.edu



Chest. 2005;128(3):1101-1103. doi:10.1378/chest.128.3.1101
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Extract

The call comes that a spouse, a son, a daughter, a parent, or another loved-one is critically ill or seriously injured and has been admitted to the ICU. The hospital is not a familiar place, and the sights, sounds, and smells of the ICU remind one that within this intimidating place, lives hang in balance. Although the doctors and nurses are kindhearted and competent, news of progress is infrequent, often fragmented, and at times conflicting. The waiting room is wanting, with little privacy for conversation or to collect one’s thoughts. There is the murmur of hushed conversation, punctured by occasional sounds of grieving or forced levity. Soon the battle is apparently turning: the threat of the immediately life-threatening illness has lessened. However, the protracted campaign of chronic critical illness, with new enemies such as nosocomial infections, emerges, taxing one’s endurance and willpower. Sleep is scarce and fragmented, and diet consists of coffee and fast food. Mail piles up, and calls go unreturned. Simple joys are not nearly as simple nor as joyful. Gut-wrenching decisions about critical issues must be made and often provoke emotional conflict and second guessing, both internally and among the collective family. Usually, there eventually is sufficient recovery for graduation from the ICU to new challenges, but often the devastating loss of this beloved one occurs despite the efforts and anguish of many.


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