People Who've Been In A Long Term Coma Explain How They Readjusted To Life After Waking Up
Frederic Köberl/Unsplash

It's a miracle! After years of being in a unconscious state, people who were in long term comas finally came out of it.

Comas can be caused by a number of things, like traumatic head injury from an accident, a stroke, or a brain tumor. Comas can even come on through infection or alcohol poisoning.

It may seem that there isn't a lot happening when someone is in this state of involuntary "deep sleep" but there's actually a lot going on under the surface.

The real question though, after all that time, what happens when someone has finally woken up and has to go back into the world? What are they asked to face? How will they become apart of society after all that time?

We went to Ask Reddit to find out first hand accounts of people coming out of their coma.


Redditor Real_Joe_Mom wanted to know:

"Redditors who have been in coma for a long time (>1 yr) what was it like to "wake up" again? And how did you adjust to literally a long fast forward?"

Let's get into it.

​Financial woes.

"I had no idea where I was. I had no idea what happened. Months later I was still learning about who did (or didn't) visit, pray, call, ask. Finances were a total mess (trust me, companies DO NOT CARE). Massive debt and financial penalties. And took over 18 months to get a job after painful physical rehabilitation and explaining over and over and over that I was in a coma, not just not working. Then COVID."

- North-Technician

"Damn man, glad you pulled through."

- InterestingThought33

"I feel ya. It's been a financial nightmare for me too, I don't think I'll ever recover from this. There is no forgiveness for us. Recently, I totally lost it on a debt collector, I was screaming through the phone at him 'Do you f*cking think I planned this! What part of zero dollars do you not understand!'"

"Fortunately I was given Social Security Disability so the working thing has a little relief but it is a penance of what I used to earn. Unfortunately because I got behind on child support (due to coma) the State is taking a major chunk out of my Disability income to make up the arrears, I have to come up with 3K I don't have to go to court and 'maybe' get that reduced. Both my boys are Marines now but the State still taking money for child support arrears putting me further in a financial hole."

"Some days I think about just robbing banks to get out of this. If I don't get caught great, if I do I can go live with the Feds (prison) Either way it is a win/win situation."

- WhyZeeGuy

"I feel like the state should automatically give you disability or at LEAST assign you a case worker to suspend your bills and store your stuff while you're in a coma. Like, there should be a system where the hospital logs you as a coma patient and then social services step in. Wtf."

- ProstHund

"I'm not American, but from everything I've heard about American healthcare, it sounds dystopian."

- Anonymous2401

"Don't worry in comas or similar situations, it's not just the healthcare that screws you!"

- bocaj78

"Dude oh my god when I read about that vegetative person in a facility who gave birth and no one even knew she was pregnant…that was f*cked up"

- ProstHund

Time passing without knowing.

"Ever think 'Sh*t, I hope this is still the coma?'"

- Boss_Boggs

"I got hit on the freeway and crashed into the median and knocked unconscious when I woke in the morning after having a weird seizure sleep paralysis it took me 30 min to convince myself I was actually alive."

- adognameddave

"My roommate was sitting in his car, about to start it up when a drunk driver plowed into him. One minute he was fishing out his keys, the next minute was waking up three weeks later in a hospital bed. That's how he described it, as if no time had passed at all."

- MikeMac999

Hollywood was wrong.

"Hollywood's depiction of waking from a coma is shockingly wrong. I was really stunned when my friend was in one for about a month and had to relearn virtually every basic function."

- alexrt87

"Yeah, my friend was in a coma for a couple of weeks and it took days for her to wake up. Then she had to relearn movement, speech, walking, everything. Crazy."

- CDM2017

"Just before my grandpa died, he stopped eating and drinking and kind of went in and out of comatose states for a few days, and the doctor was explaining to us that doctors don't really like the terms 'coma' and 'wake up' because it implies a binary of coma and consciousness, when in reality it's a spectrum with lots of shades of grey."

- whompmywillow

"My dad was in a coma for 3 months due to complications after surgery for pancreatic cancer. It was just like that. Sometimes he was completely out, sometimes he'd look at me but it wasn't clear if he actually 'saw' me. At one point he gave thumbs up and smiled when my 2 year old daughter visited him and said hello, and seemed to hear what we were saying to him. Clearly he was in varying degrees of consciousness. He doesn't remember much of that period though."

- manofredgables

"I was in a coma for a few days after falling from a roof when I was 10. I don't remember falling or anything until I woke up with my mom beside me."

"Evidently, I was awake during this time to have answered detailed questions about chess moves. But I can't remember any of it."

"Reading all these stories, I feel fortunate as I've had no long lasting effects. However, I did some psychoanalysis a few years ago and under regression I relived the fall. I had never really thought much about it but I mentioned it happening to the shrink."

- robbie-3x

Severe memory loss.

"Does it count if you can't remember a single thing for 6-8 weeks? I was technically 'out,' but my wife says she had a conversation with me every day."

"I don't remember anything but was medically sedated for almost 2 months after getting hit by a car [while] cycling."

"Anyway, I couldn't walk or use any extremities upon coming to. Extreme muscle atrophy required almost 2 yrs of PT to regain full independence. Not fun at all."

- dal1999

"My dad also lost several weeks of memories after being run over by a car whilst he was out cycling. Weird how similar your stories are. He spent 2 months in hospital too but couldn't remember anything that had happened for weeks beforehand. The accident happened in January but when he was taken out of his induced coma he still thought it was the year before and couldn't remember Christmas or anything."

- fernshanks

"My dad was in ICU for 72 days and was 'awake' but doesn't remember it. Like we had convos with him and he knew who we were, even the time he was on a vent and couldn't verbalize he would talk with his hands and shake his head yes and no. I knew he had delirium from the meds and stuff and wasn't right but he genuinely had no idea any of it happened. It took him 3 days to believe us when we told him how long it had been."

- allrattedup

"The delirium was incredible. Some days I fought going to sleep just to not have those lucid dreams. Lost every time. Recalling events that never happened made people think I had brain damage. I recall getting upset because every single day staff would drill me with the most mundane questions. Where are you? Why are you here? What is your birthday? etc. Every damn day. It was some sort of sanity check to make sure the pain killers weren't having a psychotic effect on me. The rest of your comment sounds very very familiar."

- dal1999

Lost in the passage of time.

"I was out for just over a month, it was surreal, like a dream I couldn't quite wake up from. When I woke up, my arms and legs didn't work and my vision and thoughts were really fuzzy. I thought I was out for a few days and was unpleasantly surprised to know it has been over a month."

- phageblood

"What were the dreams like?"

- MHoolt

"Oddly enough, walking around the streets of my home town. There was music that seemed to come from the sky and someone was talking to me, but they sounded really far away. Turns out my best friend had sat next toy hospital bed, talking toe and playing a lot of our favorite music!"

- phageblood

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Lost love.

"I was out for 40 days after a motorcycle accident, but I don't remember much for about 6 weeks after that as well. I was sedated with ketamine and a mix of opiates and started to wean off of them while still on a ventilator and ECMO. I was extremely confused and seeing double so I was terrified. Communicating was very hard because of the confusion and that I couldn't talk or write. The thing I remember most vividly is the insane hallucinations I had as a result of the ketamine. I was hallucinating something that was making me freak out and try to rip the tubes out of me, including my ventilator, chest tubes, and arterial line so they had no choice but to tie my limbs down and put boxing gloves on my hands. I had no idea I was doing any of that, but I had moments where I was significantly more aware of what was going on, which were so frustrating because I was completely tied down and again, couldn't communicate. The doctors and nurses kept trying to explain to me what I was doing and that I needed to stop, but I did not understand. I felt like I was being tortured and I couldn't understand why."

"At the time of my accident, I was in an online relationship that had become very rocky. I had booked a flight to meet the girl and my accident happened the day before my flight. This was only somewhat of a coincidence, as I was riding my motorcycle extremely recklessly due to my emotions and frustration in the relationship, and with my life for other reasons. My family knew about my relationship and was able to tell her, but it wasn't until about 3 months after the day of the accident that I talked to her for the first time by sending her a video."

"One of my respiratory therapists put a device on my tracheostomy so I was able to talk. This was an extremely emotional moment and my mom was the first person to hear my voice. I used the device to talk on the phone with the girl, but it was difficult because the ventilator was loud and the device did not sound like my normal voice. My relationship with her was not the same and not recoverable. In hindsight, this was for the better, but in the moment despite all the terrible things I was experiencing, the feeling of having lost the connection with this girl who was my first love was awful. By this time I was becoming completely aware of what I did and what happened, and extremely conscious of what I had put my mom through as she had been by my side every day in the hospital not knowing if I would survive, or if I had sustained significant brain damage."

"After 5 months in the hospital I was transferred to a rehabilitation facility, and two weeks later (December 2019), discharged home with a wheelchair and walker. I was gaining the ability to walk short distances on my own and even decided to start college again. Then covid hit, and I also experienced some unfortunate medical complications that kept me in and out of the hospital for most of 2020."

"This is all very recent, but every aspect of my life has changed post-accident. My finances are in ruin. My physical health and pain is terrible but given the fact that I have all my limbs and can still walk, I feel like I can't complain. I value time completely differently because of my continuing medical complications. I don't think I will live very long. It's a lot harder for me to get angry or upset about anything because it all feels insignificant compared to being tied down, unable to communicate, and in pain."

- office365makesmekms

Everything changed.

"Best friend of an old colleague of mine who I met a few times at drinks etc..."

"She was in a car accident when she was about 20, spent a few months in a coma."

"Upon waking up apparently her whole personality changed, especially her goals and stuff. Before the accident she wanted me to a teacher and was in uni, but after the accident she couldn't think of anything worse and wanted to become a hairdresser."

"She couldn't remember a lot of her teenage years and she said some things like her favourite food and TV shows had changed (from what people told her she liked before hand) and taste in music."

"I was absolutely flabbergasted by what she was telling me."

- johnotopia

"Roseanne Barr said a similar thing. apparently she was in a car accident at 16 I think. before that she had to watch and care for her siblings, was a square, never cursed etc.. after the accident (I don't think she was in a coma) her first words were 'I need a cigarette'. she left her family without notice, moved away, had sex, got pregnant, put the baby for adoption, had more children, wasn't afraid to speak her mind. I found it really interesting."

- Upinmybuttt

"I'm reminded of a story I read a few years ago about a rugby player who went into a coma after he broke his neck or had a stroke (it was one of them) when he was training."

"When he woke up, he was a totally different person as before the stroke, he was a straight man with a fiancée and he worked at a bank but after he woke up, he was now a gay man who then left his fiancée for a man and he also left his job at the bank and became a hairdresser."

- -FangMcFrost-

A sister who lost a year of memory.

"My sister was in a car accident and sustained a massive head injury. She was in a coma for over 5 months. Waking up from a coma doesn't happen suddenly. It's gradual. She had to relearn everything starting with swallowing. She's missing her last year of high school and she cannot remember many things since her accident. Her short-term memory was damaged. Her damaged memory makes her very frustrated."

"Her accident was in 1994. She graduated in 1993. She cannot remember grade 12. This was stunning for the family because she had just graduated. That whole year was GONE."

"The story of what happened:"

That weekend my sister had double booked herself. She was supposed to head to a car rally with me and my husband. She came to me and asked me if it was alright if she went to Whidbey Is. with her best friends. This has bothered me for decades. If I had been a b*tchier sister I would have told her to postpone her trip and come with us. But I wasn't and I'm still not like that. I told her to go have fun with her friends."

"That Saturday we got the call that she had been in a car accident. She was traveling down a rural highway when a lady blew a stop sign. My sister swerved to the left to avoid her (she's left handed). Her car started to spin she tried to correct and ended up swerving the car into on coming traffic. She hit a pick up truck that was driving in the opposing lane and her car crumbled. She had her driver's side window partially down. Her head slammed down on the open window and she was cut from her ear to her chin. She was thrown against her friend in the passenger seat and broke her clavicle and her pelvis. Her friends had minor injuries. She was wearing her seatbelt but the twisty nature of the collision swung her from side to side."

"They used the jaws of life to extricate her from the vehicle. She was posturing which is what happens when a person has a massive head injury. The emergency crew had a ferry return to dock so they could load her on."

"For three days we didn't know if she was going to survive. They drilled a hole in her head to relieve the pressure that was building due to her brain bleeding. She survived. Our family has been by her side ever since."

- tranquilseafinally

"As someone with a damaged memory, I can relate. The feeling of knowing something is supposed to be in there but it's not is really hard to describe and so incredibly frustrating. The closest thing I can think of to describe it is a word or name being on the tip of your tongue but you can't quite recall it, only instead of words or names or titles, it's with memories."

"Some are worse, like having absolutely no clue what someone is talking about when they are reminiscing about something. Others are better, remembering small snippets of something happening but not the whole thing. Some are just straight up disconcerting, having no idea what happened during months of time of your life. Still yet some can be down right baffling. Most recently I was in a craft store and had some super strong emotional reaction over drawing pencils but have no clue why or what's important to me about them."

"It can be pretty exciting and overwhelming when something finally clicks and a whole flood of memory comes rushing in at all once though. I bought the pencils hoping one day it will trigger."

- lucky_719

Feeling like it's been a whole new life.

"I was in a coma for 3 weeks. Not that long but my dreams made me feel like I was out for decades. I was really confused and didn't understand where I was or why."

- ocyries

"Sounds like the guy who made a post about how he lived an entire lifetime, married, kids, everything, only to wake up from the coma and realize it was all fake."

- rythmicjea

"That one left me feeling bereft. Like when you're really into a great book, then it ends. Only worse. Way worse. Dude was fully grieving a life he thought he had."

- Mkitty760

The story was posted by u/temptotosssoon who woke up after an accident and was mourning the life he had inside his mind while unconscious.

Mush for brains.

"Most people who are in a coma that long will have mush for brains. It's also extremely rare to regain any degree of consciousness after a whole year. If they do, they will not prioritize catching up on world events and tv-shows, they will be learning to speak, eat, move, recognize friends and family, the names items around them, etc."

- ohdearitsrichardiii

"This. I was in a drug induced coma for between 2 and 3 weeks. Don't ask me how long, I can't tell you. That was years ago and I still can't make a timeline for it work. I was "awake" for a day or two and realized my vision was really fuzzy. I finally remembered that I wore glasses. I wasn't able to put them on myself or take them off. Putting my hands to my face was completely exhausting. Rehab was horrible, but it worked well, 2 months to the day I'd gone in, I went home, using a walker and reliant on nearly every one else for every thing else. I could manage getting 8 feet to the toilet and that was about it. Rehab lasted about a year. It sucked!"

"I have such admiration for people who have worse struggles than mine. The amount of pure grit it takes when your "only" problem is muscle atrophy is miniscule when compared to folks with broken bones or missing muscle pieces. I figure they much have real gravel, not just grit!"

- NotTheGreenestThumb

"Yes, doc here. People assume that you can just stay in a coma indefinitely and then wake up and recover. In some cases that sort of thing can happen, but it is so rare that those cases usually make the news. Usually folks who can't wake up even a little after about six weeks have a very low chance of full recovery, and the recovery that they do have will be long and arduous. Learning how to swallow again is shockingly hard, much less other things like walking and regaining your mental faculties. It can permanently alter your cognition and your personality, and that's assuming that the reason you were comatose isn't related to brain damage to begin with (which it often is)."

- LatrodectusGeometric

"I went comatose twice in my life, 7-10 hours the time and I've no recollection of the second time. Both originating from the same head condition, hydrocephalic pressurization and I ended up a potato. The waking up from the first coma, I was dazed but functional. Came to and tried to figure out why I was tied down to the hospital bed while I've got all my family members standing in my room crying. I could talk and think, it was just the haze of coming out of anesthesia that made things difficult that time. I was only in the hospital a week, but had to relearn how to walk."

"The second coma, I have no recollection of. It's like my brain intentionally decided to shield me from the event, but from what I've gathered, I went from functioning normal up to the day before, told family I was going to take a nap and proceeded to sleep for about approx. 18 hours. My mom and brother managed to get me to 'wake up' long enough to walk out to their car, while my boyfriend pulled up to check up on me. Some hours later (after the second surgery), I wake up and I'm talking, conversing to everyone like normal. My partner says it was terrifying to experience, but the absolute worst part was after coming to, I kept saying I wanted Cici's Pizza cause it just looked so tasty."

- foxtrousers

Being trapped in your own mind for so long, unaware of what's really happening in the world and how much time has passed sounds like a nightmare in itself. But upon waking is when the real nightmare can start.

Especially if you live in America.

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