Listening to patients in intensive care

Reading ‘Locked-in Guillain-Barré syndrome: My living nightmare’ in this issue of Practical Neurology sends not one, but two shivers down the spine. The first comes from imagining oneself as the ‘48-year-old professional man with severe Guillain-Barré syndrome’, struggling with pain and dyspnoea, unable to communicate. We seldom read the very words spoken by patients in scientific journals. This article tugs us into their world, into their ‘living nightmare’. Thankfully, we can wake up when we choose.

The second shiver is different. Time working as a consultant in a busy intensive care unit (ICU) often focuses on saving lives and preventing harm. Intensive care is a relatively new specialty that started when a little 12-year-old girl was ventilated during the 1952 polio epidemic in Copenhagen.1 Therefore, the amount of high-grade evidence that we rely on is quite small yet growing.2 We cling each day to the rocks of…

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