Coma is a prolonged state of unconsciousness which may occur when a part of the brain is damaged as a result of a traumatic experience. I was 29 when my bicycle lost its break and collided into a heavily loaded moving truck. I fell with a blurry vision at the scene and lost my consciousness almost immediately. My skull fractured and was pressing right against my brain. Following series of Tests and surgeries, I slided into a coma for 45 days. Being aware of absolutely nothing for several days in the ICU, my mind was completely lost and in a different world whilst my body laid right on the hospital bed. Only in TV soap operas do patients snap out of a coma and go back to their old lives the next day. In reality, coma patients are completely unresponsive to stimulation or commands; their eyes don’t open. Within 2 weeks, they generally improve, die, or progress to a vegetative state (their eyes are open, but they remain unresponsive).
With devastating brain injuries, doctors reportedly thought I might never regain full consciousness but luckily I started showing slight responses to external stimulations such as touches earlier than expected. I Struggled between life and death with an oxygen mask placed on my nose and a heavily bandaged forearm and head.
Everything was black. Like a black sky, but not a night sky because at night, the sky is really dark blue or dark purple, it’s not pure black. I’d never seen anything so black. It was a sky, but ink-colored, and nothing else. I wasn’t aware of myself; I wondered where the buildings, people and roads were, what I was standing on, or whether I was floating or standing I couldn’t tell. I had no ‘body’ sensations. I lost a total control of my body. I had terrifying repetitive dreams which seemed like an hallucination from which I couldn’t escape. I had thought Nigeria is now a replica of London; North Korea had blown up; the moon is now brought to earth; Mars is being colonized. I fought through these weird thoughts, I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing were reality.
After 30 days of unconsciousness, I could hear footsteps of people going and coming through the door. I started showing physical response to my dreams; the first time I moved my fingers myself was in the presence of an attending Nurse (as I was told after I recovered) who hurriedly went out to seek the doctor’s attention. Scarlet!! Wake up, what you are seeing aren’t real!” my mother said. The words echoed through the mountains and rivers in my dream world. “What was that?” I thought. Since the first response, several responses were noticed. “This shows her brain is getting ready to pick up, Give her more time, she’s going to fight through it on her own. She is still alive, but the brain is functioning at its lowest stage of alertness. You can’t shake and wake up someone in a coma like you can do for someone who has just fallen asleep.” the doctor said.
Weeks later, I finally opened my eyes staring furiously at the ceiling. I couldn’t recall the last thing I saw. Everything seemed new to me. “Where am I?” I wondered, I tried standing up but I felt a slight headache and tiredly laid on my right side, I could feel some bed sour on my back wondering what had happened. I barley recognized anyone and I could not understand why people were so worried. About 8 months later I started regaining my memories gradually, I could tell who my families and friends were. I had a speedy recovery which was a rare occurrence in modern medicine or even in the popular TV dramas Greys anatomy or The Resident. Even though I recovered from the traumatic brain injury (TBI) I still suffer from a temporary retrograde amnesia (losing previously made memories).
Written by Ahmad Abdullah, University of Ilorin, Kwara state, NIGERIA
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Thank God she made it. But she started regaining her memories 8 months later,is it that bad?
Nice write-up though.
This is a normal part of the healing process. It is called post-traumatic amnesia (PTA). For years, PTA was defined as the period of time after an injury when the brain is unable to form continuous day-to-day memories. More recently, the definition has been broadened to include a state of disorientation to time, place, and person. In this condition, the survivor may not understand who she is, where she is, and what is happening to her. She may be unable to recall very basic information, such as her name, your name, the season of the year, or the name of the current president. Most post-traumatic amnesia(PTA) lasts three to five times longer than the preceding coma. Here Scarlet’s coma lasted 6weeks proceeding to her 7th week; her PTA lasted more than 5 times the weeks she spent in coma.
When a survivor emerges from her coma, she likely will have little or no short-term memory. She may be disoriented, agitated, angry, impulsive, or extremely emotional and having feeling of starting a new life until she’s able to recall her memories from the past which may take a even longer time.