I get seriously confused when I wake up from a long nap, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to come out of a coma. It’s a strange experience, and different for everybody, but always fascinating to hear about.
Here, 13 people share true stories of the comas they were in and what it was like waking up from them to a different world.
1. Maybe take it easy on the mushrooms.
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. Some boyfriend.
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. Sleeping your life away.
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 is. “Holy shit, what happened?” My 2nd question I asked myself is, “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. Birthday card back-up.
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. Old news.
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. They mostly come at night, mostly.
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 not in the tradition 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.
7. Hitting the snooze button.
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. Identity crisis.
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. Trapped in limbo.
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. Waking up on the operating table.
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.
11. Days in the haze.
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.
I was in a medically induced coma for 11 days when I was 19 (I’m 24 now). I went to sleep drunk, and while I was sleeping on my back I accidentally threw up, and inhaled all of it. My lungs were filled with so much fluid that I was likely going to die. All I know is my mother was told to say her final goodbye to me, and my grandmother had me baptized. But then at the last minute, the doctor tried flipping me onto my stomach and it started to break up the stuff in my lungs, and it began to dissipate (this is my understanding). I was in the ICU for about 2 weeks due to aspiration pneumonia, and then was on the general medicine floor for about 2-3 weeks. I don’t remember much about waking from the coma, except I had this weird inclination that I was given a vasectomy while I was under.
I remember a few things that actually happened around me while I was under, like the score to a football game that someone must have been watching on my TV, and I recognized a nurse when I woke up. I guess my main memory about waking up is I was just super confused. I didn’t know why I was in the hospital, last thing I remembered it was before Halloween and I was going to bed, and I woke up and I’d missed election day.
13. The long road to recovery.
I was in a 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 could 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.
But I’m getting better, little by little.