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COA’s Nancy Andrews Featured on BBC for Work on ICU-Related PTSD

Posted March 01, 2013, at 8:25 a.m.
&quotGhosts with Knife and Gun," drawing by Nancy Andrews, COA faculty member in art
"Ghosts with Knife and Gun," drawing by Nancy Andrews, COA faculty member in art

Nancy Andrews, College of the Atlantic faculty member in film and video, continues to focus on issues of medically related delirium, through interviews, discussions, presentations, and artwork.

On Feb. 27, Andrews was featured as part of the BBC program Newsday, broadcast throughout the world, speaking about her experiences of post-traumatic stress syndrome occurring after being discharged from an intensive care unit. The program was a response to the release on Feb. 26 of a John’s Hopkins study finding that approximately one-third of patients released from the ICU experience PTSD. The BBC program can be heard at 15:30 on this site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014rsr8.

According to Johns Hopkins researchers, “One in three people who survived stays in an intensive care unit (ICU) and required use of a mechanical ventilator showed substantial post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that lasted for up to two years.”

Andrews knows this all too well. Following a severe heart injury in 2005, she spent two weeks in a Boston ICU. While her life was saved, she experienced extensive delirium while in the ICU—paranoid delusions of people trying to kill her, and “hallucinations of ants on peoples’ faces, weird things in my IV fluid bags, nightmare-like hallucinations where I was variously stuck in the bottom of a boat floating down an underground waterway (think Phantom of the Opera), stuck in a well (think Silence of the Lambs).” Upon being released, Andrews spent years suffering from PTSD caused by the physical and psychological trauma.

She continues to talk, write, and make art about the subject—and is about to embark on a feature-length film focusing on a fictional character who has, like Andrews, been forever changed by a near-death experience. Andrews plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film on March 23.

The film, “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes”, will use animation, drawing, and special effects to evoke the consequences of human research conducted by Dr. Myes. Says Andrews, “After a near-death experience, Dr. Myes, researcher in the science of perception, attempts to graft animal senses to the brain in order to revolutionize human consciousness. She must face the consequences when she uses her own body and mind as a research tool and transforms herself into a creature with supersenses.”

Additionally, Andrews will give a presentation at the Connected and Consequential conference on March 7 at MIT, sponsored by Artists in Context. The conference features artists who are offering new approaches to the critical debates of this time. This is followed by an exhibit opening March 8 in the Biddeford, Maine, gallery Engine (feedtheengine.org), and a presentation at the University of New England that day. Andrews is also involved in a crowd-sourcing project, inviting others who have experienced ICU PTSD to post their stories on the website Cowbird under the label “recovering life after an ICU stay.”

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit www.coa.edu.

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