Life after Intensive Care: overcoming adversity and celebrating creativity!

Start date and time

Thursday 2 August 2018


The Thistle Foundation, Queen's Walk, Edinburgh EH16 4EA

Every year over 140, 000 people are admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the UK, over 75% of whom survive. Survivors of critical illness are a growing population who experience chronically impaired quality of life and protracted recoveries as a consequence of “Post Intensive Care Syndrome” (PICS). Physical symptoms include: muscle wasting, fatigue, generalised weakness, weight loss, joint pain/stiffness, breathlessness, hair loss and skin and voice changes. Rates of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic are high, and many patients suffer from cognitive impairment (impairments in memory, attention and executive function).

Alongside strong narratives of lives forever changed, qualitative research with ICU survivors in Lothian has identified strong themes of “determination” resilience, spirituality and creativity; themes which are rarely celebrated in conventional literature or media. Some ICU survivors, for example, (re)discover creative writing, poetry or imagery and music, using it as a way to make sense of life-threatening illness and their changed lives. Others describe the sense of “having a second chance at life”, and a strong desire to “give something back” e.g. by volunteering. This event aims to showcase these more positive, therapeutic aspects of recovery, for the benefit of other patients and families involved in the process.

We will host a public engagement event in central Edinburgh, to which we will invite up to 75 people. Those attending will include interested members of the public; former Intensive Care patients; their family and friends; practitioners from health and social care, and representatives from relevant patient-led charities (e.g. ICUsteps, the James Lind Alliance). Wherever possible, and only with participants’ explicit permission, we will create online media by creating short video clips that we will share on our website ( Online media will include spoken word, images, text (e.g. stories, poetry), music or short films.