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People are sharing their experiences of what it feels like to be in a coma

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Alex Finnis
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People are sharing their experiences of what it feels like to be in a coma

Thankfully, most of you will not have ever experienced what it feels like to be in a coma. Hopefully you never will.

However, while deeply morbid, there is also something incredibly fascinating about them. What’s it really like to spends days, weeks, maybe even months unconscious? How much can you feel? How much can you remember? Do you have dreams?

These are the exact questions being asked over on this new Ask Reddit thread, titled, ‘People who have been in a coma, is it true that you are aware of your consciousness and how did you deal with it knowing that you can’t move?’

We’ve put together a range of the most interesting responses, and unsurprisingly, it differs a lot from person to person.

“I was in an induced coma for just under a month.

“For the most part I dreamed absolutely vivid and terrifying nightmares that incorporated the world around me. Most of the time I dreamed I was on a boat that was sinking (the bed I was on moved automatically to prevent bedsores), but there are also individual points that I remembered. A parade of friends who were either laughing or crying at me as I was tortured (a group of twenty or so friends skipped school to come see me), my father trying to fight someone (him yelling at a nurse about something), and someone trying to choke me (from being intubated).

“As the medications were weaned and I started having a longer and longer periods of lucidity everyone had to keep reminding me that, no, I wasn’t on a boat, and no, you can’t pull the staples out of your scalp.

“The boat thing really was traumatising. I had nightmares about boats (and helicopters, but that was from the Life Flight) for a few years afterward. Before I used to love going out on the water, but afterward even going to the beach would cause me to shake and have cold sweats. It probably took almost a decade before I was able to go to the beach and actually enjoy it.”

“Not me but my 13 year old student who was hit in the head by the side mirror of a passing car and in a coma in ICU for several weeks. His parents were lovely people though not well educated and at lose ends about their son’s condition. I would visit him most days after school and bring his 16 year old sister to visit when she wanted. 

“The first few days I would tell him he was in excellent care and his body was resting up after an accident that bumped his head. Later days I would reassure him that he would be OK and tell him a little bit about his friends and how they all sent their best to him. Some days I would tell him about the book we had been reading in class. 

“Later when he woke, he told me he could hear me telling him he was safe and would be alright. He remembered me telling him his body was resting so he could get better. I was pretty surprised he had those memories, one never knows how deep the coma might be, and relieved that he was not afraid while under.”

People are sharing their experiences of what it feels like to be in a coma 1

“I was in a coma for 11 days, and I remember none of it. Yay for amnesia! I don’t remember the three-four months before the coma, I don’t remember the car accident that led to the coma, I don’t remember being in a coma, I don’t remember waking up from the coma, and I don’t remember the hospital or the three-four months after the accident. TBH my memory is pretty spotty for a couple of years following the accident.

“The accident was 17 years ago so I’ve gotten used to it more over the years. In the months and years immediately following the accident, it was really confusing and hard to deal with. I was 17 years old at the time, so a young adult afterwards, and my peers were not at all helpful. They didn’t understand at all and they weren’t sympathetic.

“There’s not an exact moment where my memories start and stop, but there are definite photos and records of things happening in my life during that time that I don’t remember at all. In the years afterward, as I began researching and talking to doctors and better understanding amnesia, it gave me a much better understanding of what I’d experienced. At the time it was just confusing! For example - when I was in the hospital, since I didn’t remember the accident, I didn’t understand that I was in the hospital or that I was injured. (I actually don’t remember that either, that was just told to me afterward by my parents. I tried to escape out a window at one point because I didn’t think I needed to be in the hospital.) 

“Since I basically lost all those experiences of growing up and being an adolescent, it was kinda like going through puberty again. Except this time the changes in my body were because of the car accident, and everyone around me was a decade ahead of me in maturity.

“I went to college after the accident, and encountered some people (one in particular) who really took advantage of my confusion. I was very malleable, and they put me in a lot of bad positions. They convinced me to do a lot of things I now regret.”

“My mother was in an induced coma for several months. While she was under, they amputated both of her legs due to sepsis. When she woke up, we asked her a similar question - she replied that she hadn’t been aware of us, but that she had had some horrific nightmares about having her legs chewed off by demons and vampires.”

“I was unconscious for 11 days once. I remember my last moments of consciousness, I remember a moment when a nurse was giving me an ice bath and talking to me, and I remember a moment with my mother standing over me weeping. Otherwise, there was nothing.

“I will never forget the nurse. She was older than I was at the time, and she was wearing hazmat gear. She wept while she bathed me, and told me that she was sorry no one had come to see me. She said she was sure that there were lots of people who wished they could, but it wasn’t safe. She said she hoped I would be OK because it was too sad for a young person like me to be so sick. I just tried really hard but can’t remember anything except the words and the gear she was wearing.”

“I don’t know if this counts as a ‘coma’ but I was fully awake for an operation once. I remember the doctor giving me the propofol and then me telling him it didn’t work but no one was responding to me and I realised I was paralysed and no words were coming out. 

“I was going through a course of electro shock therapy, for those who don’t know they basically give you seizures to treat depression. Anyway it was a very scary experience and the next thing I knew it felt like a jack hammer hit me in the head, that is what getting electricity pumped into your brain feels like I guess. When I woke up I told them and they didn’t believe me ‘til I explained the whole thing, and then the anesthesiologist was very apologetic and promised to get it right the next time. 

“For the operation they give you anesthesia as well as other muscle relaxer drugs in order for the body not to move, so I was not only aware I was unable to move a muscle and on oxygen the whole time.”

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Alex Finnis

Alex is the Editor of ShortList.com

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