_When people fall into a coma on TV, they always seem to have the ability to hear what's going on around them, and it's likely they'll be woken up by a family member when they say something dramatic. _
In real life, comas are highly unpredictable for the patient. These Redditors shared stories that show just how different the experience can be for each person.
[Source listed at the end of the article.]
“I was in a coma for 3 days after a car accident where I hit my head. Pretty much, I was driving, then the color purple, then I woke up 3 days later.
There really was nothing. It’s not even like sleeping because when you wake up from sleeping you know you were asleep. It is like blinking: one second you’re doing something, then the next something totally different. I do have a vague memory of being on a table with a cute guy wiping my nose, which was hurting really badly. I remember saying ‘you are super cute’ but that’s all. I believe that was before I went into the coma after the accident.
I had a brain bruise or something like that, and it caused speech problems for about 6 months after.”
She heard it all
(1/2) “My dad is an Emergency Room Doctor, and he told me about this woman in a coma he saw during his residency. The experience taught him that you need to treat everyone like they’re a fully aware and conscious person, even if they’re in a coma.
Every day, he and the other resident doctors would all do their rounds to regular patients at the hospital. They would go from room to room checking on them with the attending physician who instructed them. One woman was in a deep coma for weeks. Every time they’d come in, he’d say, “Hi Ms. _, I’m Dr _ and I’m just here to check on you!”
He talked to her like she was listening to him, explaining what he was doing to her step-by-step, and a lot of the other doctors thought it was kind of silly. I mean, she’s in a coma, so she can’t be listening, right?
Well, time goes by and the woman wakes up, all of a sudden. They’re doing their rounds and he walks in the room and says something and she immediately recognizes his voice. She came into the hospital in a coma and never saw the man, and never heard him talk while she was awake before that day. She says, ‘Oh, I remember you! You’re the one that was so nice to me!’
Hearing that makes comas seem really terrifying to me–the fact that she was conscious enough to recognize not only a voice but also how someone treated her while she was in a coma. Still, it shows that you can’t just assume someone isn’t listening, just because they aren’t talking.”
A whole life in his head
“Not me, but my dad.
My dad was in a coma for about 2 months a couple years ago. Recently we were talking about the whole thing, and he told me that he had ‘dreamed/hallucinated’ that he lived for 10 years, and did all sorts of things during that time. He said it was very vivid, and he walked across the country a couple times during it.
When he woke up/got home, he said it would throw him off when he would run into people he hadn’t seen since before the coma, because at first he always expected them to have aged by 10 years.”
Stuck inside her head
” I was in a medically induced coma with induced, full-body paralysis for six weeks. Most of the time my mind was asleep, but there were a handful of times that I distinctly remember where I ‘woke up’ in my head. What was the experience like? It sucked.
When I would ‘wake up’ in my head, I had no idea as to what had happened. So I’m fully conscious, I know that I’m me, but I can’t open my eyes, I can’t move a muscle and I can’t speak. The first time it happened was terrifying. I started to panic and for a minute there, I thought I might be dead. Then I realized that I was thinking, so that didn’t seem right. I tried to move and couldn’t. I tried to speak and couldn’t. I tried to scream and couldn’t.
I realized at that point that if I didn’t calm myself down that I would go off the hinges inside my own head and no one could help me. Though I was on a ventilator, in my head I did deep breathing exercises (at the time, I think that I thought that I was actually breathing). I listened to the clicking of machines and tried to focus on those. Then I started counting the sound of something that seemed repetitive. That gave me enough to focus on until I eventually drifted off again.
“The next time it happened was when my best friend came to see me. Again, I can’t move, I can’t see and I can’t talk. But when I ‘woke up’ in my head, I could feel her holding my hand and asking me to squeeze if I could hear her talking. I tried as hard as I could to squeeze my hand and I could feel it doing absolutely nothing.
When she let go to walk away, I was completely devastated. I tried to scream for her to stay, but obviously, nothing happened. That said, I was so glad that people I knew were there wherever I was and that I was getting help (even though I felt completely helpless). That kind of helped. Then I had to calm myself down again so that I could drift off again.
Whenever I would “wake up” in my head, it was always the same. I was confused at first, but then remembered that this is how I was. I had no idea what had happened and really didn’t think about it too much. I have no idea how long I was ‘conscious’ for when it happened, but I don’t think that it was for very long. The condition that I was in required as little external stimulus as possible, so most talking was forbidden unless it was absolutely necessary (thank goodness for my friends who believed that I might be able to hear them and talked to me anyway).
There were a few times when I would have these incredibly vivid dreams. To this day, those dreams are like actual memories to me. If I think about them, I have to remind myself that they didn’t happen.
When I was finally brought out of the coma, my parents were there and that didn’t make any sense because my parents lived two states away at the time. I eventually learned that they had been there the entire time. They dropped everything in their life and came to be with me and stayed there throughout the entire ordeal.
After a couple of days (I think), some doctors came in and asked me a bunch of questions. The first question was what year it was. That I knew because I remembered getting sick on New Year’s Eve, so I knew it was 2000. Next was who the President was. I answered Clinton, so I got that right.
Then they asked if I knew where I was. I assuredly said, ‘Honolulu’ because, in my dreams, I had been in Honolulu. When all of their faces had that confused Scooby Doo look is when I realized that wasn’t quite right, so I figured that I must have been back in Salt Lake City (somehow). They appeared quite relieved when I came up with that.”
“I was hit in the neck with a machete about 2 years ago, and fell and hit my head. Someone had tried to kill me over something stupid. After being flown by plane to the nearest hospital, I was put in a medically-induced coma for a week. When I woke up, I didn’t and still do not remember a thing.”
The miracle woman
“This was told to me by a dear friend. When having her second son, she had a scheduled C-section. Her first was also a C-section birth. She had been uncomfortable during the last part of her pregnancy, saying that she felt pain in her abdomen. Anyway… during the operation she suddenly screamed, and then hemorrhaged.
It turns out she had placenta percreta. How this was not picked up during all her ultrasounds I will never understand. Her doctors saved her, and it was not easy. She had a heart attack and lung failure, and then received a blood transfusion.
She was in a coma for over three weeks, and we all thought she wouldn’t make it. Then one day, she just kind of woke up. She told me that she does not remember much, but was aware sometimes of voices and a feeling of panic. Her husband talked about how they would put the baby on her chest and when they picked him back up tears would leak down her cheeks. She told me that things got lighter, in her head, like sun through deep clouds, as she healed. They call her the Miracle Woman.”
Time flies during surgery
“I can tell you what a friend of mine told me:
He went into the hospital for surgery right before Thanksgiving, and it didn’t go well. He slowly came to in the hospital and he noticed his wife beside him. He croaked something out because his voice was terrible, and his wife burst into tears.
When he was able to get to the point where he could ask why, she answered ‘You’ve been in a coma for over 10 weeks; it’s February.’
He thought he was in the recovery room after surgery.”
Blink and you’ll miss it
“My freshman year of high school, I took too much medication. The last thing I remember is walking into school. I vaguely remember falling on my knees and hearing screaming.
I woke up 2 weeks later in the hospital. I don’t remember those 2 weeks at all. I didn’t even realize that the time had passed when I woke up.”
Adventures in Middle Earth
“I was in a coma for 5 weeks due to Meningococcal. I had A LOT of ‘dreams,’ most of which 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 (I’m 22 now) and my mother was reading Lord of the Rings to me while I was out. I had some pretty vivid Lord of the Rings-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.”
Nothing like a good book
“I’m a burn survivor. I was in an explosion in my backyard when I was 7 years old. While I was in the hospital, I was in a medically-induced coma to make my chances of surviving higher.
I do remember a few things that happened while I was in said coma. I remember my father reading the 7th book of the Magic Tree House series to me, and I remember hearing the screams of new patients that would come in. However I couldn’t move my body at all, nor give any signs that I could hear my family or medical staff.
I made a full recovery, and today I’m more grateful than anything that this happened to me. It made it a lot easier to figure out who the people I wanted to have in my life were.”
He had other things on his mind
“It was just a very short time span – less than a week. But it felt like nothing. You just wake up and realize something happened, you’re told you’ve been injured, what caused it, what I broke, etc. And somewhere along the line they also tell you ‘you’ve been kept in a coma.’ I didn’t bother asking the first time around, but I also remember pretty much nothing around that period in time anyway; they may have told me, I just forgot.
What I distinctly remember is the time of waking up. It just felt like a dream, until your brain actually decides to take notice of what’s happening around you.
During the coma, I can’t say I’ve experienced anything at all. Not even vivid dreams, but then again, how often do you remember vivid dreams? Mine usually disappear in under 5 seconds after waking up.
Time did fly by, in a sense that time flies by as you sleep. You’re aware time passed, but that’s it. There are plenty of other priorities, such as, what’s this stuff attached to my body (IV, etc.)? Why is part of my beard gone (accident left a scar on my chin)? Why do I feel so woozy (pain medication and a brutal concussion)?
That’s about all I remember from that time.”
Welcome to the future
“A friend of ours fell into a coma at age of 25 in 1992 and woke up at age 36 in 2002. She was a Rhodes Scholar nominee and quite brilliant.
She was still 25 mentally. It was as if everything was just on pause. Her body was really well preserved; she’s really fun and cool and sort of the ultimate cougar.
Plus she totally woke up to the Internet.”
Open heart surgery
“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 8:00 am. The surgery went badly, and I apparently was on a respirator for 48 hours until I could breathe on my own, and awoke on a Sunday night about 11:00 PM. I thought it was still Thursday. I had no awareness of time passed, or of anything that happened while I was unconscious.”
The white room
“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, and I had a heavy feeling of being nervous and 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, and I felt every second of it. It was only for four minutes or so, 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 this part but when I was revived I screamed for minutes, I just screamed and cried.”
She stood by his side
“I spent 8 days in a coma last year after a particularly traumatic surgery, and 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. I remember thinking it wasn’t 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 on sedatives 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.”
Partying with the gnomes
“This was one of the bigger deal things that happened to me in my late teens, and has shaped my perspective on life, injury, death, and sobriety.
It probably was not technically a coma, but I was unconscious and amnesiac for some hours following a head trauma. I had cranial hemorrhaging and total amnesia, and during that time I didn’t even remember my name.
While all that was happening in the real world, I had a very vivid dream/hallucination about playing with some gnomes. It was a beautiful sunny day (the accident happened late at night). These were more like garden gnomes that had somehow animated rather than mystical.
creatures, if that makes sense. They weren’t scary. We were pals. I remember the ivy covering the indoor area where we were ‘hanging out,’ and some concrete paths, and some scrubby trees. And the smell of dust and dirt.
The kicker is that in the dream, I was in the basement underneath the hospital that I was being treated at. Some part of me was aware of what was going on. I live in a major city with many hospitals and had never been to this one before.
I’m so grateful that I’ve made a full recovery. I had reconstructive surgery and a titanium plate put in on the left side of my face, and my brain pretty much works. I apparently came very close to dying, losing an eye, or being maimed beyond recognition on one side of my face.
I could have very easily been one of the gnomes playing underneath the hospital on a sunny day.
It’s all a blur
“For me, waking up wasn’t an instant process. I gradually became more and more aware of what was going on around me. My memory of things that happened shortly after I woke up are a little jumbled with things that I imagined happening as well.”
“I had emergency exploratory surgery for my perforated ulcer that lacerated my artery in my duodenum. My surgery was a success with only a 15% chance of living, and I was put into a sedated coma for 8 days. It flew by soooooo 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 a whole variety of sedatives to keep me from waking up and moving about.
I remember having some vivid and very scary dreams, so in detail that it felt real. People tearing each other apart, eating each other etc. I’m pretty sure it was the sedatives giving me the night terrors, as it was one of the side effects. I even thought my doctors were trying to assassinate me, despite the fact they had just saved my life.”
They took care of her
“I spent a week in a medically-induced coma due to serious facial injuries sustained at work. At first there was nothing. Then, during the time after the nothing, I had ‘dreams.’ They were strange. I went to some really dark places in those dreams, and it felt like I would never escape from them.
Eventually, outside stimulus started to break through. Nurses spoke to me. I never understood what they said, but their voices were always kind and reassuring. It was like I was clawing my way back towards those voices. Later they would tell me that all they were doing was telling me exactly what was happening to me and what they were doing. They thought it was only fair that I know but their voices were always so kind when they said these things. I am so thankful for the care they took of me.
Eventually, the docs lightened my coma and I remember my (work) partner standing over me, and looking down at me. She is tough as old boots that one, and seeing her there reassured me no end. I knew with my friends around me I was going to be fine.
I remember periods of nothing, interspersed with little snippets, like those little vignettes you see on a TV show, where they suddenly cut away to some other place/time. A workmate (my supervisor) came in with a card that dozens of my co-workers had written on. She read out each and every message, and I remember fading in and out, but I still remember the words she was saying, and her tone of voice.
Other little things started to intrude on my private nothingness, and the dreams became less and less and the outside world became more and more, until finally the doctors bought me out of my coma.
They asked me if I knew where I was, and I tried to say yes. My mouth didn’t work, no sound came out. They told me not to speak so I tried to nod. It felt strange. They had performed a tracheotomy because I was unable to breath by myself. They asked if I remembered why I was here and again I nodded, this time a little more slowly so the tubing didn’t move too much.
From there I remained conscious but sedated, and have relatively intact memories from that point on.”
One step at a time
“I was in a coma for around 4 days following a pretty bad traumatic brain injury.
After that, I was responsive but not fully conscious. I would respond to cues but with inappropriate responses.
After a couple days of that, I returned to full consciousness. I felt well-rested but extremely hungry. I knew where I was, but not why I was there. I did not remember any of the responses I had given over the last few days. I never did get those memories back.”
She thought she was late for a meeting
“I had severe amnesia when I woke up from my coma. Apparently, when a doctor asked where I was, I responded that I was in my brother’s car (he did not drive) and I was late to a meeting and would be fired (I was 13 and did not work).
When asked to identify my sister and father, I called my sister the nickname I called her when we were very small children, and I could not remember what to call my dad. I knew who he was, but I could not think of his name, or the words ‘dad’ or ‘father.'”
These comments have been edited for clarity.