A word of caution: the information given here is not intended as medical advice. We do not advise you to follow any of these "treatments" yourself. We advise you to obtain a full medical diagnosis and discuss your treatment plan with your doctor. If you choose to use aromatherapy as part of your treatment, please seek out the help of a trained aromatherapist first.
I'd like to share with you a case study from my shift in the Intensive Care Unit recently. This one really intrigued me because my initial intentions were to target a specific outcome, and while I did indeed get the outcome, this in fact became the secondary benefit of the use of essential oils in an acute care setting. The situation itself is very unusual.
The patient was a 74 year old male admitted with Pneumonia superimposed on COPD (emphysema) and Asthma. He was intubated emergently in the field after respiratory arrest. Background history was negative except for the pulmonary conditions noted, chronic back pain, arthritis, and leg cramps at night. He also noted allergies to several antibiotics, and eggs. As I was the admitting nurse, I completed the history and assessment, as well as reviewing the previous admissions so I had excellent information on which to base my later choices of EO's. He initially required full respiratory support from the Ventilator. Later that evening we were gradually able to wean him down to a lower level of support. ( I am trying to keep it so all can follow, and not just nurses! (Excuse me if I use *lingo*...am trying not to!)
On day 2, significant improvement showed on the chest x-ray, and our goal was to extubate as quickly as feasible to prevent further complications. He was extremely alert and cooperative, and able to communicate through written note. After letting me know about severe leg cramps, I decided to utilize Aromatherapy because narcotics or sedatives would have interrupted the process of weaning the ventilator and getting him to breath on his own. I choose Roman Chamomile 1 drop and Petitgrain 3 drops in 5 cc of Grapeseed oil. It was applied via the M-technique which is taught by Jane Buckle. He reported this to be very effective, and did not require any further intervention. These oils were also chosen on the basis that they would be very relaxing and would be able to assist the patient emotionally in making the transition from breathing machine to oxygen by nasal cannula only. He provided written consent, and denied any allergies to Chamomile or Ragweed, and used herbal teas frequently!
One interesting point here, apparently EO's were absorbed in this case because relief was obtained by topical application. Previous measures had failed. Remember, on the mechanical ventilator the oral and nasal passages are cut off from outside air....so NO chance of inhalation.....unless there is a cuff leak...and there was not!
By early afternoon he was successfully extubated (breathing tube removed). As I cared for him and we talked, he told me a about his pulmonary history, and occupational history as a potato farmer. He attributed the spraying of the potatoes to be the cause for his illness, and then went on to state that he was very intolerant to perfumes, and flowers. He then asked me to put a sign on the door saying *NO PERFUMES OR FLOWERS PLEASE* Now....this rather surprised me, as he had signed a consent for the AT, after explaining it to him. (The Doc's have standing orders for AT that I can use now) I also had on an aroma necklace with a bit of Rosemary and Peppermint because I didn't get much sleep the night before. (still can't get my baby to sleep through the night!)
So, I asked him if he noticed the smell and if it bothered him. "No, he said, as a matter of fact, it seems to kind of clear my nose!" (No, I usually don't wear this, but this day I needed it!)
To cut this short a bit, a while later he asked for another AT treatment. I talked to him about this "allergies" to perfume and flowers. I turned out he felt that he was *chemically sensitive* and did have a history of reactions to perfumes, but with flowers he was just extra cautious. I did provide him with another treatment using the same oils. Now for the funny part. We have sliding glass doors, and I always close them for quiet and privacy. I could hear some giggling outside the room but the ICU is a pretty noisy place so I ignored it, and continued on. After finishing, I resumed my paperwork and charting at the desk, and my co-workers proceeded to tell me how hilarious they thought it was that I was behind the closed glass doors that had a huge sign "NO PERFUMES OR FLOWERS PLEASE" doing *AROMATHERAPY*! We all got a good laugh, including the pulmonologist. I assured them, that this is what one can do with AT when they are trained ; > ). Currently I am the only nurse in the Hospital that is allowed to use AT, and I am trying to change that and get more nurses trained. There is now a self-directed course study for health care professionals available.
I think more than the physical relief from the leg cramps that the AT brought this gentleman, was the "holistic" approach of using the EO's with touch. He was SO grateful and awestruck by receiving this kind of care in a hospital. It is really a post unto itself, how AT affected this gentleman and his family. I received a card in the mail, as did the Administration. Use of AT in the clinical setting is very empowering to the patients. Among other things, Mr. X said, that he had previously been on a ventilator, and that the process of coming off this time was not associated with the fear and anxiety that was present the previous time, and he felt this to be due to the AT!
Lori Mitchell is a Registered Nurse and Clinical Aromatherapist living in Kalispell Montana, USA. She is a Regional Director for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, also serving on the Safety Committee. Lori has incorporated the use of Aromatherapy into both the Acute, and Long Term Care settings, and currently uses essential oils as an integrative part of her nursing care in the Intensive Care Unit where she has worked for 15 years. She is actively involved in conducting nursing research on the use of essential oils in a clinical setting.
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