Former patient hopes to raise awareness of delirium

“I lost two weeks of my life. I cannot remember anything apart from seeing tanks in the car park!”

Ken Asquith

These are the words of former patient Ken Asquith who found himself ‘blue lighted’ to hospital.

He is telling his story as part of world delirium day which is being held tomorrow on March 13.

Healthcare professionals across Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospitals are supporting the event to raise awareness about this potentially life threatening condition.

Delirium affects a person’s mental state and can last for a few days, weeks or even months. It can lead to confusion, disorientation, or difficulty with concentration, and can come on very quickly.

Ken, who is a security officer at Grimsby’s Diana Princess of Wales Hospital, found himself a patient after being taken ill at home. He said: “I couldn’t walk, and on my way to hospital my blood pressure dropped so much they blue lighted me the rest of the way.”

On arrival at A&E Ken was so ill medics first thought he was suffering from a ruptured aorta, which was ruled out following a CT scan and tests. He was stabilised and moved to a ward.

Ken said: “I had no touch with reality. I thought I had been dumped on a pile of mattresses and the nurses were putting tracking devices in my arms. Lifeboats were picking people up from the car park, which was filled with tanks not cars!

“I couldn’t move, or communicate. My whole temperament changed. I am not one for swearing but I was effing and blinding. I just didn’t have a grasp on reality. It was really frightening for my wife. I lost a whole fortnight of my life.”

Rachel Greenbeck, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust quality matron, said: “There are a few tell-tale signs to look out for. If you think someone has delirium then you need to act quickly and seek medical help.”

She said the signs and symptoms to look out for include:

• Not being able to think or speak clearly or quickly
• Not knowing where they are (feeling disorientated)
• Struggling to pay attention or remember things
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucination).
There are two types – one where confusion changes throughout the day with people also feeling agitation and restless – and the other where people feel more sleepy and are less responsive.
Rachel said: “If you are worried about someone then try asking them their name, age and today’s date. If they seem unsure or cannot answer you, they probably need medical help.
“Patients who have had it say they feel unsure about their whereabouts, feel afraid, irritated, and anxious and find it hard to follow what is being said to them.”
As part of the week Rachel and the nursing team are visiting wards raising awareness with staff, manning an information stand and running a series of drop-in sessions.
If you think someone has delirium then:
• Stay with them – tell them who they are and there are, and keep reassuring them
• Use simple words and short sentences
• Make a note of any medicines they’re taking, if possible
• Do not ask lots of questions while they are feeling confused
• Do not stop them moving around – unless they are in danger.
Sudden confusion can be caused by a number of things including:
• An infection. Urinary tract infections are a common cause for elderly people or people with dementia
• A stroke or mini stroke
• A low blood sugar level in people with diabetes
• Some types of prescription medicine
• Alcohol poisoning or alcohol withdrawal
• A severe asthma attack or other problems with the lungs or heart.

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