Coma patients recount their experience

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Today, many people wake up from their coma and can testify to what they have experienced.
  • A “real” coma can have various causes: head trauma, stroke, tumour, etc.
  • There are four stages of coma, which doctors can assess based on several criteria.

The coma is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating phenomena in the world of medicine. As research progresses, the chances of getting out of it increase. Today, many people are waking up and can testify to what they have seen, experienced or heard: a tunnel towards a white light, the impression of a separation of mind and body. A strange experience between dream and reality.

“These long endless dreams where we live and where we feel everything”

“Once in a coma, I detached myself from my body quickly enough to wander. Without really knowing how, I manage to be alongside my loved ones”, told Laurence Musy to West France. She remained in a coma for four months after a fall from skiing. Most people who have fallen into a coma have had experiences bordering on the real world. They often have the feeling of “being there without being there”.

In 2013, Julie Bourges was 20 years old when she suffered severe burns during her high school carnival. After the accident, she was put in an artificial coma for three months. She shared her experience on her Instagram account: “these long, endless dreams where we live and where we feel everything. (…) these deliriums which mean that once awake, I can no longer dissociate the dream from reality, as if disconnected”she explained.

In the newspaper Midi-FreeMartine Rondeaux gave her testimony: “I was in a house, in the midst of a huge family, further on there was an old lady and a river. Not far away there was death, the Grim Reaper. Every time I said no to him, the old lady was smiling at me.” She had been placed in an artificial coma following a car accident. This approximates near-death experiences (NDEs) described by people resuscitated from cardiac arrest.

“I felt total well-being, ecstasy”

Joseph Garcia, 82, still remembered his period of coma at the age of 21. “I found myself in a large ocher room, very beautiful, he told Midi Libre. I realized it was a tunnel. There was a white spot at the bottom. Just the white. Absolute white. I’ve never seen a white like that. Even the snow is not so white. I saw myself in the light, well, my shadow. I immediately feel very light. I then said to myself: ‘if this is what dying is, I don’t fear death’. Where I was, I felt total well-being, ecstasy. Nirvana, as they say now.

“Weeks in the Hospital Pendant”, while the doctors treated him, Joseph Garcia was “out of his body”. “Later, my roommates told me that I hadn’t stopped screaming and moaning, and yet I didn’t feel anything. Then my body was seized with fits of hiccups so violent that I made the bed shake. They made me drink syrups for whole days. The doctor said I wouldn’t last the night. I saw myself from above: as if someone else was in my place. It may seem illogical but that’s the way it is”.

4 stages of coma

Unlike the “artificial coma” caused by doctors, a “real” coma can have various causes: head trauma, stroke, tumor… There are four stages of coma, which doctors present according to three criteria: eye opening, motor response and verbal response. By compiling the results, they assess the level of coma: from awake coma (the patient feels the pain and pronounces a few intelligible sentences), to the so-called “light” coma (the patient does not present any neurovegetative disorder), then the carus coma (coma deep, absence of verbal and motor responses, neurovegetative disorder) and finally overcome coma (also known as brain death).

To estimate its duration, doctors have several techniques at their disposal. Recently, Inserm developed a hearing test to assess a patient’s state of consciousness, which makes it possible to predict their future state. But we know that the longer the coma, the greater its impact on the brain and vital organs is likely to be significant.

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