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13 Survivors Reveal What It’s Really Like to Be in a Coma

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When I was little, one of my mom’s best childhood friends had a kid who crashed into a tree while he was sledding and was in a coma for a long time. I was very young, so I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember that the idea was pretty petrifying. To a kid, a coma is like being asleep – except you can’t wake up, and everyone wants you too, but there’s nothing anyone can do. If it was that distressing for me, I can’t imagine what it was like for his family, and I certainly can’t imagine what it was like for him.

These 13 AskReddit users know first hand how it feels to be in a coma, and then to wake up:

1. “There was no ‘waking up’ phenomenon”

I was in a medically induced coma a few years back for around a month or so. There was no “waking up” phenomenon. One day I remember some flashes of light. Next day a few minutes. Etc. I was so beyond messed up on drugs they were giving me that I was hallucinating and had essentially no idea what was going on for at least a week. For example I was convinced the heart rate monitor was playing the Mario theme song and they had brought me Mario to play. The nurse wasn’t happy after I kept asking to play.

2. “It felt like I was waiting for something”

I was in a coma, for a week after being in a serious car accident. I suffered 2 months memory loss from the day of the accident, multiple broken bones, fractured skull, broke my jaw and fractured most parts of my face. I woke up in ICU extremely confused and crying and thinking I was still dating my high school boyfriend and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t with me.

But what I do remember from the coma was that I was standing in a white room, it felt like i was waiting for something, but I didn’t know what. But the worst memory was when I was still in a coma and I could feel people hold my hand and I could feel the nurses bathing me, but I couldn’t move or open my eyes, I just couldn’t do anything and it was terrifying!

3. “How old am I?”

I had a car wreck in July and broke the C2 and C3 in my neck, hip, and clavicle. I was in a coma for 2 months, scored a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. That’s the lowest you can get, if I woke up they thought I’d be a vegetable or paralyzed for sure.

When I “woke up” from the 2 month coma I was scared. There was Happy Birthday banner on the wall of the hospital so the first thought that came to my mind was. “What happened to me?” The 2nd question I asked myself was, “How old am I?”

For some reason 60 years kept running through my head, like I was 60 years old. I could tell I was in the hospital because of the room and I had a neck brace on, so I tried to stand up to walk to a mirror and realized I couldn’t walk. Then, my next brilliant idea was just to scream as loud as I could so someone would know I was awake. I tried to scream but no sound came out. (I later found out the 2nd intubation paralyzed a vocal cord.) I didn’t know what to do or how to find out what happened so my third bright idea was to look at the back of my hands to see if they’d aged a lot.

The backs of my hands looked about the same so I thought at most it had probably been a few years. I knew there was nothing I could do and was tired, so I just decided to go back to sleep. Still, it felt like I just woke up in the morning and no time had passed. I was in neuro rehab up until January and asked everyone there who had been in a coma if they remembered anything and they all said no. They just remember being scared when they woke up.

It only happened a little over 7 months ago so it’s not years or anything. I was originally in a wheelchair, then walker, cane and now I can walk unassisted. It took several months of rehab to get to that point though.

4. House Fire

When I was 6, I was in a house fire. I remember going to bed the night before, then I must have passed into a coma from the smoke inhalation because apparently the fire happened in the room I was sleeping in. My first memory of waking up I remember thinking everything was normal and I had no idea that I had missed anything. Then I found this huge box of get-well cards and pieced together that I must have been under for a while.

5. “Like the scene from E.T.”

When I was 16 in 1998, I was in a coma for 3 days, I think. I’m from New York, but was spending 3 weeks on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Sometime during week 2, I got sick, and ended up having 2 seizures. I was helicoptered to a hospital in Flagstaff. When I woke up from my coma, I recall it being sort of like the scene from E.T.; I had tubes on/in me, I sat up in bed and started pulling them off of me. My parents, who had flown in, scared to death I’m sure, calmed me down, which wasn’t too hard. I don’t remember much of the next few days. Apparently I read the same newspaper 3 days in a row.

6. Hallucinations

It all started with some small headaches in the evenings throughout a week about a year ago. One day I woke up at my girlfriends house, took her to university on my motorbike and made the hour long trip home which I had done hundreds of times. Fortunately I arrived home safely when my head started to really hurt. As in the worst case of kick in the head ever! I took some painkillers my dad has which were extremely strong.

Time went past and eventually I tried to lay down and watch some TV, but the screen was far to bright and all I could do was lay on my back grasping my head in pain which was only getting worse.

From there I’m not really able to tell you much of what happened in reality because I started passing out, but I could type all day of what was going on in my head!

I was hallucinating for 5 days straight 24/7. During the day I was having loving and warm hallucinations while my family, close friends and loved ones were around me during visiting hours. But when they had to leave my visions because very dark and completely unbelievable however to me they were extremely convincing.

I’m not talking wavy shapes and fuzzy things. I’m talking genuinely convincing things that were happening to me. As a man of science I was constantly questioning them but It was just so real to me. To the point where I still question if maybe it genuinely did happen to me.

I woke up when I was ready after 5 days in ICU in the top ward in the south of England with a pump doing my heart for me, a tube forcing me to breath, a tube coming out of my manhood about twice the length of… well… you know! My whole family around me, doctors, nurses running around everywhere. I was awake at this point but still having hallucinations although less convincing than during the coma.

I went from being 13 stone to 9 1/2 stone in 5 days and then from 9 1/2 to 9 in the three days after that. Apparently when someone is in intensive care it usually takes 3-5 days in a regular ward for every day you were IN ICU to recover as it can cause PTSD and other damage to people. I was so determined to get back on my feet I was discharged in 3 days. According to the doctor, if he was less busy in the morning and could get round to me earlier I would have been broken records for recovery times.

While I was in the coma I died twice and yes I had the crazy white light experience however it wasn’t really like they show you on TV. I also had out of body experiences. For weeks after I had awful dreams, really really graphic stuff and some very very emotive nightmares.

7. “It is always gradual”

I was in a coma post-very severe seizure for 6 days. I didn’t suddenly come out of the coma, but instead had more and more time awake. Initially I was drowsy and things were “fuzzy” and didn’t make sense. But then they made more sense and I slept less and was more fully awake. It probably took about 4 further days to become properly awake.

I am a nurse and now see that in patients that come out of comas it is always gradual. Most comas are induced by medicines (we do it for pain management, healing, to be still) and these are gradual, as well as patients that have been in self induced comas. It differs from normal sleep.

8. Memory Loss

I was in a medically induced coma in September 2012 for a few days. I had taken an accidental overdose of propranolol and stopped my heart. Apparently I then developed pneumonia (although of this I’m unsure of, as I wasn’t really you know, there for any of it.)

For the first 24 hours they were sure I was going to die as they didn’t know how long my brain had been deprived of oxygen when they found me and started working on me. When I woke up a few days later all my little memories blurred into one another, I just remember lots of faces all around me of worried people. I remember thinking how convenient this had happened when my mum was on a holiday so she could be there. She wasn’t on a holiday.

When I came to I couldn’t remember very much about myself or my life. And my memories for the month beforehand were just gone altogether.

As time passed I was slowly able to piece things together again but it was really weird, I would just be eating cereal and then suddenly: “Oh yeah I studied psychology for 2 years at university!” Then boom. A whole aspect of my life came back into my brain. This happened almost continuously for a couple of months.

I couldn’t have caffeine, or anything that might stress out or change my heartbeat until I went for a follow up in December to confirm there weren’t any permanent issues caused. Which luckily there were not! I’m fine now but I would say it was 4 months before I really felt like me again. And I never got those 2 weeks before the overdose back, I’m still not sure if it was accidental or on purpose. But there you go.

9. “I felt I was in there for months”

My coma hallucinations were pretty bad, I kept trying to fight everyone, everyone (friends, family and doctors) was out to hurt or humiliate me to the point they strapped me to the bed so I wouldn’t hurt anyone or myself. When I finally stopped hallucinating, I was so tired of running away, and fighting (think inception, or dreams, I felt I was in there for months), that I didn’t even care much for the fact I had lost an arm, I was just glad it was over.

10. “Like emerging from deep waters”

I was in and out of a coma for about two weeks. I say about because I don’t actually know how long, I was never told the exact amount of time. I had a life-threatening case of internal bleeding caused by clostridium difficile and sepsis. The first few days was a genuine coma, after that it was induced by the doctors with ketamine.

Waking up was kind of like emerging from deep waters. It took me a few days to actually be fully aware, I attribute that to the meds. Before that, it felt like time was skipping at random.

The last proper memory I had was being surrounded by doctors on a table with these insanely bright high-powered lights pointed at me. I was sweating from the heat of them but still felt like I was freezing, because of all the blood I’d lost.

After that I was out for at least a week, then I started to come round for a few moments at a time. I remember looking down and seeing two catheter lines in both my arms and two in my chest. They’d ran out of space so they even put one in my foot. As they slowly lowered the dosage of tranquilizers I woke up more and more, downside of that being that I could suddenly feel all the pain I’d been too doped up to register until then. That was fun.

11. “It almost felt like going back in time”

Apparently I was unconscious for two days, but forgot almost the entire week. The following month is just a haze due to painkillers and multiple surgeries. It almost felt like going back in time. I had just started my first week of college and was staying in the dorms. Once I started having clear memories again I was living back at home, had no job, and spent my days doing nothing but wallowing in pain and depression. Like freshmen year of high school all over again, plus pain.