‘Am I Still Alive?’ People Reveal What It’s Like Being In A Coma.
Being in a coma is a serious condition and can have long-lasting effects.
Every year, a great number of car crashes, failed suicide attempts and drowning incidents (just to name a few) leave adults and children in a state of comatose. They become unable to move and speak, but somewhere deep inside their consciousness, a spark of life still lingers.
In this article, 16 people who have been in a coma share their stories:
[Sources can be found at the end of the article]
1/16. I was in a car accident at 18 and in a coma for three months. A couple of weird things happened. First I was fully aware of everything for a couple of days before actually waking up. I couldn't open my eyes or move or talk but I heard and felt everything. It was terrifying because I honestly thought it would last forever. After two days of this I fell asleep and [cut] when I woke up I was fully conscious and never more relieved in my life. I thought at first that I had just slept for three months but after a couple weeks of being out of the coma I started having the weirdest most vivid recurring dreams and flashbacks of literally being another person.
I had never experienced anything like this before the coma. I had never had a recurring dream in my life but since the coma I've had the same four or five dreams hundreds of times and in each one I'm the same person but not me. They are freaky and I always wake up panicked and often find that I'm sleep walking as well and that also never happened before the coma. I'm pretty convinced that during the coma I lived some other life in a super long and intense dream, it's the only explanation I can come up with.
2/16. I was in a coma for three weeks nearly three years ago, nearly dying several times from double pneumonia and a strain of flu that was killing younger, healthy people.
I remember precisely nothing. Little flashes of faces and pieces of dialogue, maybe. Everything I know about that period was told to me by my parents, boyfriend at the time, and doctors and nurses. Maybe some people can hear what's going on around them while they're in a comatose state, but I wasn't one of them.
When I awoke, I wasn't confused or anything. I recognized that I was in a hospital room, and I remembered being in the ER weeks before - it was the last thing I remembered. I thought maybe I'd been there a couple of days and had just slept off the worst of it. Then I saw the dry-erase board on the wall in front of me where someone had thoughtfully written the date.
My first thought was "I am so fired."
My second thought was "Um, I can't move."
My third thought was "I can't talk? WHAT IS THIS THING IN MY THROAT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT"
Turns out the coma is the GOOD part. The recovery afterward - learning to walk again because your muscles have atrophied, waiting for your voice to come back because you've been intubated all this time, trying to pee without help, and trying really hard not to get depressed - is the worst part.
3/16. I was in a coma last year (I'm 17 now). I was in for 7 months after I decided it was a good idea to jump off my roof. I remember one thing from my coma, I was having a weird dream that I had traveled to the USA and got mugged. After 7 months I remember waking up and thinking I had for some reason took a nap in the hospital. The nurse came in and saw me awake and freaked out. She immediately called my mom. My mom rushed to the hospital. She then told me it had been 7 months since I had been awake. I looked like I was wasted right after she told me that. Now I feel a lot better.
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4/16. I was in a car accident when I was 17 and was in an induced coma for 2 weeks. I remember bits and pieces.
I remember one thing in particular right before taken off the medication. I remember being told I needed to stop moving because I had been in a wreck. I remember looking around and seeing 2 very small doctors jumping from one bed to another trying to get to me. They were wearing full size medical gear that dragged on the floor behind them. They got to my bed and put more medicine in me. I looked back and they jumped off the bed and started walking out the door, laughing.
After I was woken from the coma I asked about the small doctors. Turns out there wasn't any.
5/16. I was in a coma for 5 weeks due to Meningococcal. I had A LOT of "dreams", most that I can still remember pretty clearly.
You can definitely take in what is being said from the people around you. I was 12 at the time (22 now), and my mother was reading Lord of the Rings to me while I was out. I had some pretty vivid LoTR related dreams. Like eating some ice cubes under a bridge with Bilbo Baggins.
When I woke up, it felt like I'd been gone a long time, but without knowing how long.
6/16. One month anesthetic coma. It took me about three weeks to fully accept that I was back in reality and not another messed up nightmare that would drag me back down.
I went down with both legs and woke up with one. I was doped constantly and always uncomfortable. I hallucinated black bugs in my ivs. And going back to sleep pulled me back into the messed up nightmares anyway. Of course I had trouble accepting reality. Over a year away from it and I'm still haunted by my time in a coma.
A regular coma might be like blinking your eyes, but a drug induced one left me trapped in looping nightmares of my own murder, torture, and imprisonment. I lived in hell for a month and tried to will myself dead countless times to escape. The drugs prevent lucid dreaming, but you are aware you're dreaming. That awareness didn't stop any of the death and torment.
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7/16. I was in a coma for about 3 days post-open heart surgery. I went in for the surgery on a Thursday morning at about 8:00AM, the surgery went bad, and I apparently was on a respirator for 48 hours until I could breathe on my own, and awoke on a Sunday night about 11:00PM. I thought it was still Thursday. I had no awareness of time passed, or of anything that happened while I was unconscious.
8/16. I spent 8 days in a coma last year after a particularly traumatic surgery, my waking thoughts were wondering if I had died or made it. I couldn't open my eyes and I was on a medical air mattress so I felt like I was floating, this lead me to think that I had died, and I remember thinking it wasnt so bad and wondering if my dad would come find me.
Once I realized that I was still alive I thought I had been injured fighting in a war and worried that my wife might not know I was still alive. Trying to communicate with the nurses while intubated and drugged was very difficult. What I learned later from my wife is that she was there the whole time and while I was fighting against the doctors and nurses I would immediately calm down and cooperate when she held my hand and sang to me. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of the love and devotion she has shown to me during this time.
9/16. When I was 6, I was in a house fire (17 now). I think I was in a coma for about a month. I remember going to bed the night before (the fire happened in the room I was sleeping in at night). My first memory of waking up I remember thinking everything was normal and had no idea what I had missed. I remember getting this box of letters wishing me well and had no idea the amount of time I had missed.
10/16. I was in a coma for 2 weeks, I remember being sick and calling my grandparents to tell them I'm sick. And that's the last I remember next time I wake up in the hospital, but for some reason I think I'm in Spain (was in my country, Sweden). I don't know if the dreams were at the end of the coma or after I had woken up. But they were not like regular dreams. They felt more like a bizarre alternate reality, where i was in a hospital and stuff was happening, that couldn't actually be happening.
Very weird and I can still recall them (this was in 2005), clear as day.
As for when I woke up I was in a bed, couldn't move my left arm, and my legs were seriously in bad shape. It took me some week to get the ability to walk again. Now what I remember after waking up. I remember watching espn, bowling and baseball (I've never been that bored before or after). And I remember the first food I got to eat from my mom, in bed. It was a satsumas, and it hurt like 10000 hells, the acid really hurt my stomach. My stomach was not in good shape after those 2 weeks.
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11/16. I had a very serious head injury. I don't quite recall the specifics of the swelling, but I was out for a little over 3 days, they said. I woke up as if someone had turned a light back on. I immediately tried to get up; I thought I was still on the mountain I was skiing.
12/16. Blood clot in brain at 19 years old, medical coma for 11 days.
There was nothing, no dreams, or anything.
I had a bit of a flashback like memory, of someone trying to put a oxygen mask on my face, saying something like "it's okay, I know you hate it.. Something something - but you need the training".
No idea if I made that up during the waking up phase or not, but I do remember a burning pain in my lungs associated with it. Then again, I was knocked on every anaesthetic under the moon, and had quite vivid, almost psychotic delusions for several days afterwards.
Overall though, no dreams or anything whatsoever associated with the coma itself.
13/16. When I was considered medically "dead" I couldn't hear anyone, I was in a huge white room with no walls, just a floor. The floor would occasionally sparkle far off. I could not move, I could just look around, it was completely empty. I could still feel emotions, I had a heavy feeling of being nervous/worried. It felt like I was sneaking into a place where I did not belong, like a part of the house that was off limits to me as a kid. Time went by so slowly, I felt every second of it. It was only for 4-ish minutes but it definitely felt that long. I could not think, I just felt. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I felt helpless, everything was out of my control, I felt trapped. I don't remember but when I was revived I screamed for minutes, I just screamed and cried.
14/16. I had emergency exploratory surgery for my perforated ulcer that lacerated my artery in my duodenem. After my surgery was a success with only a 15% chance of living, I was put into a sedated coma for 8 days. It flew by fast. I remember going in for surgery, scared, tired, exhausted, anemic, then bam, waking up 8 days later feeling that it was only a night ago. They had me on Fentanyl, Propofal, Versed, to keep me from waking up and moving about.
I remember having some vivid psychotic dreams, so in detail that it felt real. People tearing each other apart, eating each other etc
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15/16. When I was 19, I contracted an often-fatal infectious disease. My parents were traveling out of the country, so I was home alone and by the time I realized that I needed medical attention, I couldn't move. It was during this period that I began to slip in and out of consciousness.
My older brother lived a few blocks away with his wife and kid. He was trying to be cool and let me party a bunch while my parents were gone, but after 3 days of radio silence, he started to get worried and came to the house to check on me. He found me in my bed, unconscious, and radiating heat. He carried me down the stairs, put me in his car and burned rubber to the ER.
(He broke two of my bones while doing this, but seeing as how I was 6'1", 180 pounds and literally unconscious, this is not surprising. And before you ask - I have no idea why he didn't just call 911 and let the paramedics do it.)
I was in the hospital for 11 weeks, completely unconscious for 3 weeks and in and out of consciousness for 7 weeks.
I have six or so extremely disjointed memories that (according to my brother and parents) take place over the next 3 weeks. One was of the sheer panic that ensued in the ER once they got a Dx and were trying to quarantine me and everyone who touched me. Another was of my parents standing over me weeping.
There is absolutely no chronology to my memories themselves, but based on third party accounts, I've been able to piece together the timeline of what happened to me.
The moment that my parents stood over me weeping was right after the doctors told them to go home, get rest and hit the funeral home the next morning to make my final arrangements.
They were standing there weeping, trying to decide what to do - if listening to the physician was the right call - when I opened my eyes and looked around for less than 1 minute before slipping away again.
That was all the time they needed to decide "Nope! This is our kid." They never gave up and literally never left me alone again for the duration of my hospital visit.
Remember those fevers I mentioned? The ones I have had since birth?
Yeah. It turns out that a dangerously high, prolonged fever is what killed the virus I had.
It also gave me thermal brain damage, but never mind. I'm alive.
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16/16. I was in a coma for six weeks or so when I was 14. I was extremely sick (septic) from pancreatitis and I was unconsciousness, the doctors couldn't do anything for me, so they put me under in the hopes of my body doing something to fix itself. I basically had a huge hole in my pancreas and it was leaking acid into my abdominal cavity, slowly dissolving all my organs. Cases like mine are fatal 99% of the time, but I was in the 1% and lived! Around week four my body had created this tissue ball that encased my pancreas and a lot of the dead tissue, so they tried to bring me up from the coma. It didn't work. I was just in a regular coma now and not a medically induced one.
Fortunately, I woke up on my own two weeks later. From my perspective it was practically instant. One second I was in a medical transport helicopter and the next I was waking up. I had a few hazy dreams in the last few weeks of it , but nothing I even remember.
The interesting thing is that I did retain some information said to me while I was under. I had a very kind nurse who took care of me throughout my recovery, and she was the one who took care of flipping/stretching me while I was under. She would talk about anything while she was doing this, as she believed it helped. She was one of the first nurses I saw after waking up.
As soon as I heard her voice I gestured wildly for my notebook (I a tube down my throat) so I could talk to her. I recognized her voice! I also asked her about her son in college and her younger son's sports. Those are really specific details to remember, the doctors thought I had moments where I was really close to waking up, but didn't quite make it, and had picked up her talking then. It's weird I only heard her and not my parents though.
Some extra fun details:
My coma started the day before father's day and I was in the hospital until mid-August. A great way to spend the summer before starting highschool! I was supposed to stay until october, but I begged and worked hard to relearn how to walk, so I could be released before my older brother's birthday. I felt it was super unfair for him to spend his twentieth in a depressing hospital.
After I woke up I had to get surgery to remove all the dead stuff in me. That little tissue ball ended up weighing fifteen pounds, and they took out pounds of other stuff on top of that! I had a world-famous (in the medical community) surgeon. The only reason I got such a good surgeon is that every other surgeon available refused to do it, I was almost certainly going to die on the table, so my doctors sort of formally challenged my surgeon to do it. My parents were not told my likelihood for death until after the surgery. I have chronic sleeping issues now. Sleep paralysis, night terrors, the whole deal. My doctor thinks my brain is worried about not being able to wake up if I fall asleep, so it keeps me from falling asleep and wakes me up periodically to try and prevent that. That sounds a bit strange to me, but maybe it's true!
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.