If you've never been in a coma, you may have wondered at one point what it's like. Is it like a scary-long sleep paralysis? Are you floating above your body? Do you just feel like you slept for a long time?
Well, u/jassandra wondered, too, and decided to ask, "Those who have been in a coma, what was it like?" In response, people who have been in a coma shared their experiences, which range from nothingness to vivid memories and more:
1. "When I was 12, I had meningitis, but it was misdiagnosed for stomach flu. I was taken to the hospital last minute, and the last memory I had was 'falling asleep' while watching the emergency news on TV. I had no awareness of time at all. It's like going to sleep and just waking up what feels like a second later, but it's actually morning already."
"Later on, I had a sort of fever dream — which ended up to be true — about my parents driving me to the ER, saying 'it's OK' over and over again. I couldn't move or talk, so it seemed more like a dream than something that was actually happening. I saw the lights of the ER parking lot, which made me close my eyes, and after that, it was like taking a nap.
I woke up six days later, highly drugged, but only gained consciousness the day after. My first 'memory' after waking up is opening my laptop in the hospital bed to play Minecraft. I have no idea what happened or what I said when I woke up." —u/zxminne
2. "I was in a medically induced coma for three days during my cancer treatment. My identical twin brother died around a year prior (also to cancer). The entire time I was in the coma, I was with him. We were in a large green field with a lot of sun, and my conversations with him felt real."
"Other than that, I didn’t hear any of my family talking to me while I was asleep. It was just like I had gone to bed for three days, and I woke up feeling very tired.
I do wonder whether my interactions with my twin brother were real, or if it was just the drugs I was given causing them." —u/prince-william15
3. "My dad has described his two-month coma after his car accident. He said he could hear bits and pieces of what was happening around him, but it was like a dream that he couldn’t wake up from. When my two siblings and I would come in and talk to him, his heart rate would go down. When his friends had come to sit with him and watch a football game, the nurses made them turn it off because his team started losing and his heart rate blew up."
"On my end, it wasn’t like the movies. He didn’t just wake up miraculously. It was two months of steady improvements. One eye opened, then a few days later his other eye was half-open, then he could wiggle a toe, then he could move his fingers, etc." —u/PublixHouseCat
4. "I woke up one Monday in second grade and peed blood. I showed my mom. She called the doctor, and we went to the ER. The next thing I knew, it was Friday, and I was in a hospital bed. I had gone into a coma on Monday — that day, I had been really excited to go to a football game with my sister, who was eight years older than me and in high school — and woke up on Friday. I was bummed that I couldn't go to the game, but I honestly don't remember any of the out period. I just remember one minute being aware, and then the next minute, I was aware it had been five days. I was seven at the time, so who knows?"
"I had Nephritis. My kidneys were shutting down. It took months to figure it out, but it was caused by a strep bacteria." —l4a1a4ede4
5. "I was in a medically-induced coma for six weeks. I have absolutely no recollection of the 11 days prior to the coma. I was 16 years old, so I had to have 'round the clock supervision. My family reported that anytime someone mentioned my son (who had been born 11 days before I entered the coma) or his sperm donor, my heart rate would drop and my blood pressure would shoot all the way up. While I was in the coma, I have a few memories of being bathed and overall uncomfortable."
"I had a PICC line, chest tubes, catheter, feeding tube, and breathing tube, along with my regular IV, so that may be why." —JennayWooden
6. "I was in a coma for two weeks, and I would not wish it upon anyone. I was in a long dream. I did realize I was asleep for a long time. I was still able to feel and hear, which was interpreted into my dream."
"My hands were restrained so I would not pull out any tubes, and my dream was that I was being held in a prison." —u/MaraMarieMadd
7. "My husband was in a 28-day coma back when we were teenagers (and just friends). He doesn't remember a thing, but his heart rate would skyrocket when we would visit, to the point where we were told we had to leave."
8. "I was in a six-day coma after a brain hemorrhage. I recall nothing during the coma. I have a fuzzy understanding of my first week or two after waking up, having pieced it together by the stories I was told. Memories of the day(s?) leading up to it were temporarily wiped out, though they have since returned."
"This was over a decade ago, so take this with a grain of salt. My memory in general is imperfect at best. Also, I should mention that my coma was induced so they could stabilize me and drain the blood via my skull." —u/TheImmortalJoel
9. "My husband was in a coma for 19 days. He had binge watched Narcos while he was sick, before the coma, so he dreamt that he was a hostage in Mexico. At one point, he thought he was hanging by hooks in his neck from the ceiling, because he had woke up slightly to see all the wires and tubes all above his head. He thought he was trapped under a house because he'd been put on a sedative to paralyze him, but he was still just high from all the drugs so he was semi-lucid."
"He still has nightmares, and this was five years ago." —kristanp2
10. "My daughter was in a medically induced coma for two days from a drowning accident. She made a full recovery, but the things she told us freaked me out. She told us she played mermaid tea party with my dead parents, then described how she was denied entering the gates of heaven because 'St. Patrick' told her it wasn’t time yet."
"I know it’s supposed to be St. Peter, but I wore a shirt that reads, 'St. Patrick is my homeboy,' and she exclaimed excitedly that she had met him.
The after-effects have been extremely weird. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, she is okay, but she now sees ghosts. I could write a whole r/nosleep series on what she sees and the things she has said. The most recent one was a few months ago after her uncle, my brother-in-law, passed suddenly." —u/Dfiggsmeister
11. "My wife was in a coma for about a month. I brought the kids to see her later after prepping them. Despite the initial shock at seeing her with a ventilator, they were vocally loving, hugged her, held her hand, etc. We sat in the room and talked. At one point, I asked the kids what their favorite vacation was. They both agreed it was the road trip we took from Vegas down to Arizona. My wife heard it all but in a hallucinatory way."
"We talked about driving all over and seeing all the incredible sights. We talked about rides and amusements along the way. It was nice, then they kissed her goodbye saying, 'See you soon.'
My wife now has — nearly 10 years later — a vivid memory of a second Arizona vacation she went on with us. She even asked me early on after she woke up if we had gone on vacation recently. Her mind went through every detail we talked about and even added to it as if it all actually happened. The memories of it are as real as any." —u/Coogcheese
12. "I was in a medically induced coma for about a week. The coma itself is not much to talk about. There is just a gap in your memory, even from before it happened. I don't even remember the accident that brought me there in the first place. Waking up is a much different story, though."
"Since I was fully dosed with painkillers and sedatives, I was basically high as a kite. And since the trauma I suffered was very serious, my brain constructed very stressful and vivid nightmares that I remember to this day." —u/spiderMechanic
13. "I was in a coma for five days after they gave me medication to bring my blood pressure down. I don't know if it was a dream, but I experienced people doing painful things to me. I was praying that God would either take me or that I would wake up. When I finally did come out of it, I remember my husband and sister telling me everything was going to be fine. I didn't understand until my husband said, 'You've been asleep for five days.'"
14. "I was in a coma for a little over a month, then half-awake for another month after that. It was like the longest, scariest dream of my life. I was medically induced by a fentanyl drip for about a week at first, and let me tell you, fentanyl is a demon. I had wacky dreams about fighting corrupt hospital officials, so my brain knew where I was."
"They didn't think I'd ever talk or walk again, but in the hospital bed, I laughed at an episode of That '70s Show and inclined every day after. I'm at about 85% health overall these days, pretty much an average guy.
Oh, and it was a head injury. I had a seizure in the bathroom that made me fall onto the sink." —u/greenfingers559
15. "I was hit by a car when I was 5. I just remember some very weird 'dreams,' which I can still recall vividly 26 years later. Someone mentioned something about visiting another realm, and that's pretty close to the mark."
"I had ended up with toxic shock syndrome after being hit and went into a coma for four months." —u/ManiacMando
16. "I had a motorcycle wreck a few years ago. I was unconscious for two days. Honestly, it just felt like the worst, least-refreshing nap in the history of naps. When I woke up, I asked if the bike was OK."
"It wasn't. The driver was texting and blew a stop sign, and I ended up T-boning them." —u/PM_urfavoritethings
17. "I was in ICU for sepsis and pneumonia, so I was put in a medically-induced coma for about two weeks on propofol. I had the absolute worst dreams ever. It was like a whole anthology of nightmare after nightmare. There were demons all around me, accusing me of horrible things and telling me that I owed millions and had to be a sex worker to pay them back. People were doing horrific things and blaming me for it. I was chased, and I even had a sleep paralysis episode where this really scary and gross old woman was on top of me, trying to possess me. I fought her off, and later, my mom said I had ripped out my catheter. When I finally woke up, I was so happy to be alive, I was like Scrooge on Christmas morning."
"I never want to be put on propofol again." —Stormwatcher
18. "I went to the hospital with renal failure. I remember the nurse said, 'Uh oh...' when she gave me my IV, my arm got warm, and my dad moved my head so I wouldn’t see the blood. The next thing I know, I’m in a hospital bed, tearing through the desert at over 60 mph. I saw all sorts of weird things, specifically Ronald McDonald. My hospital bed would come to a screeching halt, and I’d be in the living room of someone I knew. When I woke up, I had cards and flowers from all these people whose living rooms I’d been visiting in my coma."
"My grandma, good friends, former coaches... Oddly, the living rooms were always three-walled. One wall would be missing, and beyond that wall was a barren desert. We would talk for a while about god knows what, then I’d be pulled back into the desert again. It happened over and over again.
Sometimes, the same living rooms would reappear, but almost all of them were unique. I woke up 13 days later, and it was surreal — especially since most of the cards came from people who weren’t allowed to visit me in intensive care and were sending well wishes in writing, not in person." —u/_Kim_Jong_The_Illest
19. "In fifth grade, I fell out of a tree and bonked my head pretty well. I woke up three days later in the hospital. I have very vague memories while in the coma of hearing my dad reading a book, my mom telling me that she knew I would pull through, and of a tube in my nose. But these were always super fuzzy moments, and I never was conscious during them. It was like a half-second of being aware of one particular thing — the way the tube felt being taped against my arm and wishing I could reach out and move it — and then back into the nothingness."
"When I fell, I blacked out before I hit the ground...or at least that is where memory fades. And 'fades' is really the best word. It was as if my consciousness was drained away and then blackness and nothingness. It was as if my body knew how bad it was going to hurt and so it shut down.
Waking up was sudden. So, so sudden. I was in blackness. I had a moment of awareness, like 'my neck hurts,' and then the pain was magnitudes higher. Waking up was the most painful moment of my life, and I just started crying and then couldn't even cry it hurt so bad. I think that had more to do with injuries sustained to my neck and head than the coma, but that is what it was like. After an hour, my body was used to the pain and I was totally normal, albeit very weak, hungry, and thirsty." —u/RagnarLothbrook
20. "I can only compare it to when you’re little and wake up at a friend's house and don’t know where you are. I was in a coma for two months after a bad car accident. I woke up alone in the hospital room and had no clue what happened or why I was there. For some reason, I thought I was 60 years old (I was in my twenties)."
"I had a neck brace on due to a broken neck, so I figured something was wrong with my neck but was unsure how or what happened. I was paranoid and scared but didn’t know why I was there. I used context clues to figure out I was in the hospital. It was frightening.
The coma wasn’t medically induced, it was thanks to brain damage. After about five minutes, I decided to go back to sleep. Two months of sleep wasn’t quite long enough." —u/ThisBlowsHard11
21. "My husband was in a coma when he was 12 (this was in the '70s). He was on a skiing trip with his family, and they were hit head-on by a drunk driver on their way home. He was sent through the back window of the car and landed on his head. It was touch and go in the chopper on the way to the hospital, and he was not expected to make it. He remembers nothing. He's not even sure how long he was in the coma for. The last thing he remembered was skiing, and the next thing he remembered was his aunt telling him that his parents were dead but his little brother was okay. He lost about a year of memories; any memories between the ages of 12 and 13 years old are still kind of fuzzy for him."
"Thankfully, the aunt that they went to live with made sure he got the help he needed mental-health wise." —patsmith4757
22. "During my two-week coma, I dreamt that I was in the middle of a cartoon-like desert with my horse, Rebel, and we were so thirsty. We came upon a saloon, and the owner wouldn't let both of us in, so I had to choose between saving myself from dehydration or sticking with my horse. This happened back in 2003. I was 14, and I had fallen off my horse, which is what landed me in a coma. The accident was caused by coming to a sudden stop after going really fast, causing frontal lobe injury and shearing between my brain hemispheres. I don't remember anything from the six hours preceding the fall. The last thing I remember is getting home from a camp counsellor training weekend and needing to study for final. My family was there through it all, and my mom spent every night with me in the hospital. Cliffhanger: I don't think I made a decision at that saloon."
"I had left-side paralysis and had to learn to eat, talk, walk, and everything all over. I bounced back pretty quickly and was in hospital for four weeks total. The rehab therapists worked with me at home after that.
The real TBI frustrations started after school had started, and I would going into furious rages every night. It was awful. Thank God for my amazing family and the amazing health care teams. They were so supportive through it all. I have fully recovered physically and have some regular depression episodes that I treat with medication and talk therapy." —u/franciswentdowntown
23. "I was in a medically induced coma for two weeks because of swine flu. Because of the TV running in my room and the drugs they gave me to keep me under, I had the most cinematic dreams I've ever experienced. Somehow, the news of Oprah retiring filtered into my brain as dreaming about saving the whales with her in a submerged Chicago."
"During my coma, Oprah announced she was ending the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was very upset to learn this after the fact. Meanwhile, in my dreams, we had a champagne brunch. It was excellent. I was also a superhero who could fly and fought my enemies on the rims of volcanoes.
And then I woke up, and not only could I not fly but my buddy Oprah had betrayed me into retirement. I was crushed." —u/mewmao
24. "I was in a coma because I fell 15 meters and broke nearly all of the bones in my back. It was horrible. In my dreams, I thought I was a time traveler or some kind of god. I thought I was shot by the police and other shit. I still have flashbacks to this day, and it is not fun."
"I am getting therapy to deal with it. It was confusing and horrible at the same time. When I woke up, I thought the nurses were torturing me and that I needed to escape. I started hallucinating a lot and couldn't even understand that I was in the hospital." —u/AlexWinchesterSohn
25. "I was in a coma for almost three months. I had a few vague dreams of people standing very close and shouting that I would be okay. I later met my chief surgeon (several operations while I was out) and nurses. While I didn't recognize any of them, their voices were very strongly familiar."
"Otherwise, I lost all memory from a few hours before the coma to waking up in a different hospital." —u/fortynplus
26. "I had Guillain-Barré syndrome. I hallucinated that my younger sister was dead, cut in half, and they were making me lay on her severed body. When I woke up, the first thing I asked was how she died. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy."
"There were actually many times I believed they put a random dead body in my bed. Another one I had was about the nurses encasing me in concrete. I was paralyzed, so that's just how my brain processed it.
I was aware of people talking to me and being with me, I just couldn't communicate, and my brain processed everything in this weird dream world." —u/Ishshablue
27. "I was in a coma twice. My first come was due to an accident, and the second was because of a burglary gone wrong. I had hit my head badly. Anyway, the curious thing is that I don't remember anything from the first coma. It lasted two days, and it felt very similar to a deep sleep. However, the second one lasted almost a week, and, from what I remembered, I kept dreaming about going to my favorite singer's concert."
"Weird times." —u/QaptainHammer