Between 2009 and 2010, 48 year-old David Richards was admitted to intensive care during the ‘swine flu pandemic’. He spent six weeks in an intensive care unit (ICU), first on mechanical ventilation and later receiving extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment. He recovered and became a survivor of severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). During his 50 days in intensive care, David's former partner Rose kept an ‘ICU diary’. Rose recorded clinical updates as well as conversations with relatives and staff who were by David's bedside. In this article, David describes how important this diary has been to him understanding and processing his experience. It forms a record not just of procedures, treatments and clinical signs but of how he reacted, how he appeared to feel and how he tried to communicate during a time that were permeated by delirium.