Fifteen years ago, when construction worker Jim Banta was hospitalized with a severe gastrointestinal bleed, doctors discovered he had hepatitis C and end-stage renal disease. Over the next nine years, he was hospitalized multiple times and experienced his first episodes of hospital-induced delirium.
“I remember thinking all the nurses were on a carousel, laughing at me, pointing their fingers,” he says.
Then, in October 2009, at age 55, Banta lapsed into a coma and arrived by ambulance at San Francisco General Hospital. Doctors there stabilized Banta, then transferred him to UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus, where he spent the next five and a half weeks moving between an acute care floor and the ICU while awaiting a liver transplant.
“I remember telling my brother and sons that some of the orderlies were going to kill me,” says Banta. “I thought all kinds of crazy stuff. You’re in bed 24/7, you get very little sleep, and I had a lot of invasive stuff being done that I didn’t understand. It might have seemed real small to my family members, but not being able to express it was horrifying.”
Underestimating Delirium’s Clinical and Economic Impact
Banta’s experience with delirium is more common and has longer-lasting effects than was once believed. Over the last couple of decades, a proliferating number of studies on the incidence and impact of delirium are causing the health care community to sit up and take notice.