People Who Were In A Coma Explain What It Was Like To Rejoin The World

People Who Were In A Coma Explain What It Was Like To Rejoin The World

You see it over a over in movies and TV shows. Someone is ill or in an accident and goes into a coma. Then one day, they're wide awake. It makes for good drama, but what is the experience of waking from a coma really like?

Reddit user TylerBatemanjr asked "Redditors who have woken up from a coma, what was it like entering the world again?"

Here are some insights from the people who know what it was like.

Barely Breathing

Being on a ventilator... well it's weird not to need to breathe and when they try to remove you from it some poor nurse gets to spend the day reminding you to breathe because you really don't feel like you need to. In fact, breathing for me was an annoyance that kept waking me up and I would only take a breath to get the nurse to let me go back to sleep. I lost weight, a lot of it, and was incredibly weak upon waking up. As a mid 20s person, I couldn't get off a couch without help. Also, eating was... well, when you haven't had to eat in a while it's hard to get that system working again as well and I had to start with soft baby food types of stuff and liquids and then bland stuff and work back up to eating regular foods again. I ate a lot of potatoes because they seemed to be the easiest to take. None of them were long comas thankfully. The longest was only a couple of weeks so there wasn't any major re-entering society with big changes. But it was very disorienting because I lost time and my sense of time and my ability to be a normal person who could just do simple things like eating or standing. I was so weak and so messed up from the badness that led to the comas and the whole not moving (though there are therapists that do come in and move you and stretch you to prevent you from curling up and getting stuck all constricted) thing.

WoW

After a week of an induced coma... it wasn't real.

I went in the day before Cataclysm came out for World of Warcraft and I was so ready for it. I had taken off work and didn't have school that day, had snacks and drinks at the ready. Even got the collector's edition physically mailed.

Went into a coma, woke up, asked if Cataclysm came in and mom said yeah, last week. What? It was so surreal to me that a week had passed when I felt like I'd taken a few hour nap. I was freaking out a bit on the inside when the doctor came in and pulled my arterial line out.

Hooked Up

When I was 16 in 1998, I was in a coma for 3 days. 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.

Quick Question

Apparently I woke up looked at my mum said 'Where's dad!?' then fell back asleep.

Confusion

Never realized I was out. Woke up confused in hospital. Was in coma for approx 2 weeks.

Coming Online

I was in an induced coma for about 3 months or so.

I remember all my senses coming online very strongly when I woke up - I was super uncomfortable in that hospital bed, the lights were super bright and my mouth was super dry.

Turns out I had an ischaemic attack. As of today I've pretty much recovered. I still do speech therapy, which I do in the form of a YouTube gaming channel, because I do have a bit of stutter.

Pain Returns

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. Then I remember a doctor cauterizing my nose to stop the blood coming from there and even through all the pain of my body trying to tear itself apart, having a white-hot chunk of whatever shoved into my nose was still enough to make me scream.

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.

Paranoid

My coma was 3 weeks long due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from a car accident. I don't remember waking up.

I actually don't remember the whole first week and a half after waking up, so I only go off of how people tell me I was.

I do have a memory of believing that I was actually probably put under for a number of years and that my loved ones were trying to make me think it was only three weeks, and that something terrible had happened and they didn't want me to find out... I guess it made me paranoid during that time.

Freshman Flashback

Was in a coma for two days, but I don't remember 4.

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.

Selective Memory

I was in a medically induced coma in September 2012 for a few days.

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", 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 back.

Out of Country Experience

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 (I was in my country of 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 a decade later, clear as day.

As for when I woke up I was in a bed, couldn't move my left arm, and my legs was seriously in bad shape. It took me some weeks to get the ability to walk again. I remember after waking up 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 satsumas, and it hurt like 10,000 hells, the acid really hurt my stomach. My stomach was not in good shape after those 2 weeks.

Fight

A little over a week on the other side. My 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), that I didn't even care much for the fact I had lost an arm, I was just glad it was over.

Slow & Steady

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).

Anesthesia

One month in an anesthetic coma. It took me about three weeks to fully accept that I was back in reality and not another nightmare that would drag me back down.

I went down with both legs and woke up with only 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 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.

I know what hell is. I don't advise a trip there. I'm an atheist, but all the same, I know hell more intimately than any brimstone spewing preacher ever did.

Just Cough

I was in a 4.5 day coma following a pneumothorax caused by over stressing my lung (I held in a cough while I had pneumonia and my lung collapsed ). Air pooled around my neck and eventually knocked me unconscious. Luckily I was already at the hospital waiting room waiting to be seen.

The first thing I remember and remember feeling is when they were removing a intubation tube from my throat. It hurt like hell... To make matters that much worse, not shortly after that they removed my catheter while I was awake. I remember asking my dad how long I was out and it only felt like a few hours but it was nearly 4 and a half days.

If I have anything to stress to everyone. DO NOT HOLD IN A COUGH OR SNEEZE. You will regret it.

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 id be a vegetable or paralyzed for sure.)

All the doctors were shocked I lived they've since told me. But when I "woke up" from the 2 month coma I was scared. There was a Happy Birthday banner on the wall of the hospital so the first thought that came to my mind is. "Holy shit, what happened?" My 2nd question I asked myself is, "how old am I?"

For the record I'm a 28 year old female and 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.

Ex-Boyfriend Blues

I was in a coma, for a week after being in a serious car accident. I suffered 2 months memory loss, beginning 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!

Nightmares

5 day medically induced coma from something similar to meningitis. 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.

I went from being 13 stone (182 pounds) to 9 1/2 stone (133 pounds) in 5 days and then from 9 1/2 (133 pounds) to 9 (126 pounds) 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 broken records for recovery time.

While I was in the coma I died twice and yes I had the crazy white light experience however not in the traditional tunnel story. I also had out of body experiences. For weeks after I had awful nightmares, really really graphic stuff and some very very emotive nightmares.

No Concept of Time

When I was 6, I was in a house fire. 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.

Long Recovery

Medically induced coma for over a week. During that time I had four surgeries and severe sepsis. A couple of organ systems started shutting down. I had horrible hallucinations/nightmares. When I woke up I didn't know where I was, what city I was in, what day it was, and thought my parents were imposters. They would always ask me if I knew my name, the date, etc. and I was wondering how they expected me to know. I physically couldn't move to hit the nurse call button. I couldn barely speak and had no sense of time. I thought I was in some ground floor building, maybe an ER, and there was an entire community on the roof. I also thought I was being held captive by some cult and that I had had a baby (my stomach was really swollen and they kept asking me if I was pregnant before procedures). They had me sitting up in a chair relatively early in the "just of the breathing tube" process and I couldn't hold my head up, pick my feet up and down, or squeeze a foamy thing. I had no idea how to read a clock at that time and had a distorted passage of time. It felt like I had to sit in that chair forever and I never knew when it was going to end. At the time I still didn't know where I was and why I was there. My parents kept showing me a video of my cats they had taken one day (they had been kicked out by my doctor to let me rest) and I kept wondering why they kept showing this horrible quality video! Apparently I would just look at them blankly or with puzzlement. They didn't know if I was all there.

All told I have a three week memory blank (a week while I was sick pre-coma, coma, and coming out of the coma). I slowly gained my senses back enough to recognize my parents and where I was.

After a month in ICU was taken to the normal unit. I had to take a swallow "test" at several points to see if I could eat. This consisted of me sitting up in a chair swallowing various viscosities of liquids. I still didn't have the strength to sit up well and basically leaned into a side board on the chair. I took the test a couple of times because I failed it at least once. I still couldn't move and someone had to feed me the liquid diet I was cleared for (slushies, clear soup). For awhile I had a call "button" (like an easy button) up by my head because I couldn't use a normal one. I remember watching my roommate walk to bathroom and complain how painful it was. I wanted to yell at them to suck it up, at least they could walk.

I finally gained a bit of movement back. I still couldn't talk very well. Psychiatrists came in to evaluate tremors I had. They had me write a sentence. Let me tell you that was so hard. I wrote "hello world" and they wanted something longer. They changed some medication and eventually I was able to grab my water cup to drink.

About every day physical therapy would come, make me sit up in bed (so hard), make me stand up with a walker and some belt assistance, and rotate over into a chair. I could measure time again and had to stay sitting for an hour. I would get dizzy rather easily though. After about a week they made me start upright physical therapy exercises. Standing for a few seconds, lifting my feet up and down (marching), kicking my feet out, and various other exercises. Eventually they had me stand and try and catch a ball that they bounced toward me or bounce the ball myself.

One day the physical therapist told me it was time to try and take a step. This was about seven weeks after I had been hospitalized total and a few after the medically induced coma. I've done many physical activities but that was about the hardest thing I've ever done. Sometimes around this time I began to put my history back together...what happened, the timeline, what was going to happen. My ability to speak and my relative intelligence returned.

Because of my extended hospital stay not moving, the length of time I didn't eat, and my illness my muscles had atrophied. I had no calf muscles. I was evaluated for "wasting" and eventually put on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)..aka IV feeding. I had a semi-port put into my chest that went straight to my heart in order to shuttle food in.

Eventually I was able to walk the length of the hallway. I was transferred to in-patient physical therapy. The gave me various speaking, eating, and cognitive evaluations which I fortunately passed. My sense of movement was messed up and I was constantly receiving messages from my eyes that I was moving ever so slightly (like a vibration). We worked on standing drills, focusing on different things to see if that would fix my issues. I was throwing up every other day, multiple times in a day, partially because of the motion (I later found out it was an infection but anyway...). Physical therapy worked with me on walking up stairs (that was terrifying and tough), walking a couple of hundred feet, walking over obstacles (like six inches off the floor), and getting in and out of a car. Occupational therapy worked with me on being able to stand to brush my teeth, changing my clothes, doing laundry, and manual dexterity. I was only in in-patient therapy for a week.

When I went home I had to climb one flight of stairs. My dad walked behind me as I walked one flight, having to pause several times. I did alot of sleeping while home, still on TPN (for various reasons). Standing up to brush my teeth was still tough. As was making it from my bed to my couch. Whenever we went anywhere for an extended period of time I would be in a wheelchair. I also couldn't lay on my side in bed like I used too...I didn't have the strength. I spent the next six months getting strength back, moving a bit more and more every day. When the event happened my doctors told me it would take two years for me to recover from the incident and they were right. It was 1.5 years before I was able to work at all, and even that was very much limited working.

Now I live somewhat normally but with some chronic medical conditions. I get tired very easily. I still find out things about my stay that I didn't know before, even though it's been a few years. The hallucinations/dreams have stayed with me and I have some PTSD-like symptoms from not knowing where I was, not being able to move, and not being able to communicate.

Patcharin Saenlakon / EyeEm / Getty Images

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