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A patient’s daughter supports efforts to combat ICU delirium

Five months is a long time to spend in the intensive care unit (ICU).

When Tiffany Basdekis’s dad, Dimitri, ended up in Northern Westchester Hospital’s ICU with pneumonia, she moved with her young children to her parents’ home to be nearby. As the days in the ICU turned to weeks and months, Tiffany spent her waiting hours researching long-term ICU complications.

Handling ICU delirium with care

“Patients, particularly those on ventilators, can end up with ICU delirium. They get delusional and it can be as severe as Alzheimer’s,” says Tiffany. “I wondered what could be done to make things better.”

Tiffany read about innovations like getting patients up early and walking and exposing them to light or fresh air. Involving family members in the patient’s care is important too.

She discussed her findings with Richard Stumacher, MD, chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Northern Westchester Hospital. “He was so receptive,” says Tiffany. “Dr. Stumacher is the most incredible physician I’ve ever encountered, personally or professionally. He is a gifted clinician and an exceptional person.”

“Tiffany opened our eyes to things we could do better,” says Dr. Stumacher. “She has been a true partner in this journey.” An educational program for nurses and mobility technicians is now being developed to help them care more effectively for patients experiencing ICU delirium.

Paying it forward to improve ICU care and follow-up

The deep bond she established with Dr. Stumacher led Tiffany to make a $25,000 gift to the ICU. The staff is pursuing projects Tiffany believes will help ICU patients, including a diary where family and staff can record personal or health events. Also, NWH is launching a research study to see if the diary lessens incidents of post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), which is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A bigger long-term goal is the establishment of a PICS-F (“F” for family) clinic — a place survivors of ICU delirium and their family members can go for care from doctors, psychiatrists and social workers as they work to return to normal function in their lives.

quotation mark Tiffany’s donation will help other families going through a similar experience, providing them with the tools, support and comfort she and her family received.
Dr. Richard Stumacher

Tiffany and her mother, Karen, have also gotten behind the ICU comfort box, which was the idea of Angela Watts, an ICU nurse. Patients approaching the end of life are given handmade quilts that soothe them as machines are removed. A keepsake box might hold a lock of hair or a fingerprint card. 

“I hope other patient families see they can take the $50 or $100 they might spend on a thank-you fruit basket and instead make a targeted gift to the ICU, helping future patients and families,” says Tiffany. “Every gift matters and will ultimately result in a considerable sum.” 

“Tiffany’s donation will help other families going through a similar experience, providing them with the tools, support and comfort she and her family received,” says Dr. Stumacher. “She really is paying it forward.”

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