Heart Transplant, ICU and Memory

“So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.” ~Helen Keller

Life is good!!

And the memory of my beloved friends does live in my heart. It’s not those memories I worry about.

I have written numerous times on these pages in the past about my memory since my heart transplant. I personally thought it was from “coding” so many, many times and all the electrical shocks I endured while being brought back to life. I thought perhaps all those shocks short circuited the synapse in my brain or something.


My memory is, according to my family, still pretty good overall. But I know I have some issues, which would be similar to an “old, slow computer” with very little RAM (Random Access Memory). I may see someone I know but can’t quite figure out their name, and then three or four days later, BAM there is the answer. Other times I can’t find right word to use in conversation, but it will come to me twenty minutes later. I used to be of quick wit, but not so much any more.

There seems to be “holes” in my memory now ….. lost periods of time that I can’t remember, until a person, a song or some very random thought will trigger a memory.

It’s like my brain was “fragmented” during my  transplant journey. It’s like most the memories are still there, but it takes a while to find some of them. I’d like to run the “Defragment” program and clean it all up, put everything back into organized compartments.

Then, last week there was a study completed by Vanderbilt University released, which I saw first on CBS News about the relationship of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and dementia. You can watch that video here –


The written study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and you can read it here – http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1301372#t=abstract

The facts of the study show that longer stays in an ICU, where many patients are heavily sedated, have had life saving surgery or a severe illness,  and the disorienting environment of the ICU can cause cognitive impairment in about 75% of all patients, regardless of age.

I spent almost 3 weeks total in ICU’s before and after my heart transplant, I was heavily sedated and many of my friends, especially those of us that spent extended times in the ICU seem to have some similar memory issues.

Not that the study will help me, but it did clarify the problem. And, the study could also prevent others from having these memory issues in the future.

I’ve learned “tricks” to help me control my issues ….. I write a lot of notes to myself on 3X5 cards and I really try to focus on where I’m going and what I’m doing.

Memory is important – “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love.”


About DAP

I am a heart transplant recipient and these are my stories and thoughts. My desire is to assist others pre or post heart transplant in anyway possible. Please feel free to contact me if you have a question.
This entry was posted in General, Heart Transplant and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Heart Transplant, ICU and Memory

  1. Rise says:

    Interesting but this study does not apply to me. I spent almost two months in the ICU and
    I remember so much. I wrote out fifty names of the doctors and nurses and the things they said to me during my stay. I left out the negative thoughts/memories LOL. They all could not believe it.
    I have been practicing memory exercises for over thirty years and I believe that helped and also because I saw some things as traumatic, I remembered them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s