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Or, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Being in a Coma But Were Afraid to Ask.
No, it's not an April Fools' Joke, exactly four years ago today I was put into a drug-induced coma. Some medical problems too complex to explain here caused me to go into respiratory failure, and in a longshot attempt to save my life the doctors put me under. Drug-induced comas are theoretically supposed to shut down all brain function, but I can tell you firsthand this isn't true. So, since friends and enemies ask me what it was really like to be in a coma, I thought I'd share the interesting bits:
- I don't remember being put into the coma.
- At no time did I know or suspect I was in a coma.
- I heard people around me saying things like, "This guy's not gonna make it." This wasn't any hallucination, because there were definitely people around me saying I wasn't going to make it. I really wasn't supposed to make it. The problem was they'd never told me that while I was conscious so I was surprised to hear it. I didn't think I was that sick, and can remember thinking, "Gee, if I could die, I better rest," and thereafter made an attempt to conserve energy even though I was, you know, already in a coma. I have no idea if this made any difference.
- I thought I'd taken a trip on an ambulance. And I was right! Because of an equipment availability issue I was transferred by ambulance from one hospital to another shortly after losing consciousness.
- I thought people were stabbing me. Actually they were putting tubes in me to keep me alive, but close enough.
- I thought I was tied up. Because I thought I was being stabbed I tried to defend myself. I kept pulling out all the tubes that were in me and to stop me from doing this the hospital staff put me in restraints. So I was right again! Or sort of.
- I thought there were people around me in fish tanks. That's pretty strange, but it's not completely nuts. I was on a breathing tube, which is sort of like a diving apparatus and I'd been diving before. Perhaps my brain made sense of the breathing tube by putting everyone else in fish tanks.
- I remember a doctor standing over me muttering "Fuck!" while there was a boing sound. Now that sounds super weird, but I was right about that too! It turns out that while a catheter was being placed in one of my neck arteries (this is another long story) it went in crookedly and had to be removed. When the attending doc pulled on the wire that allows the catheter to come out the wire snapped. There was your boing sound and your obscenity because with the wire gone the catheter could not be removed. In order to get the catheter out I had to be taken to emergency surgery.
- I remember being in the Colossus Theatre in Vaughn, Ontario. Okay, now that sounds really wacky doesn't it, I must have been hallucinating that. Only much later did I understand. You see, the theatre I refer to is a big round building shaped like a flying saucer where I've seen a few flicks. And the hospital building I'd been transferred to is also perfectly round. Even in a coma my brain was able to discern that I was in a round building. It then searched its folder of round buildings until it concluded I'd been in the Colossus Theatre. Actually sort of impressive.
You should have guessed the ending already: I didn't die. I came out of the coma after eleven days, unable to talk. You can't have a breathing tube down your throat more than eight days and I'd been given a tracheotomy. I also had retrograde amnesia and could not remember any of the details of how I'd come to be where I was, at least not for several weeks. But all that's another story...