Coma dreams

February 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm (my life)

So, about four years ago now I became very very sick and had to be hospitalized and placed in a medically-induced coma for twelve days. My heartbeat and breathing were so out-of-whack that I was on a respirator that breathed for me and generally kept me alive.

I’m totally fine and healthy now-  during my hospitalization I was finally diagnosed with this stupid and rare genetic condition called Adult-Onset Still’s Disease. Sometimes it pops up to mess with me, but I’ll never be hospitalized for it again, and that makes me smile. It was the most terrifying and miserable period in my life, in my husband’s life, and probably my family’s life (I haven’t asked directly), I still get freaked out when I get sick or go to a doctor, and I still have trouble seeing images of people on respirators in movies. It has changed my life in ways too numerous to even count.

But, all that aside, after four years I can talk about the experience without crying, and I’m trying to get more comfortable talking about it in general. I find it rarely comes up in conversations, and even when it does, I feel like I’m essentially going “Here, take this!” and dropping a big suitcase of drama onto the other person.

But here we are, so let’s talk about coma dreams.

The entire time I was in this medically-induced coma, I fought like a mad woman to get out of it, so much so that they had to physically strap me down. Even then, I would find a way to get loose enough to rip my respirator out, which I did so many times that I temporarily damaged my vocal cords. My fighting for consciousness may be why I have vague memories of my coma time, which I incorporated into the vast amount of insanely lucid dreams that I had and still remember. I thought it might be fun to walk you through a few of them.

One recurring theme was that I was in a dance troupe, some sort of Rockettes-type thing. I was having trouble finding my costume for our big show coming up, and I needed to get to the theater RIGHT NOW. I finally found my dress and got into this space pod of sorts (the lights on the ceiling of the space pod were the lights from my room in the ICU) and made it to the theater, where whipped cream had been sprayed everywhere. I complained that I would fall down, but I never got to dance in the show, because someone informed me that my boyfriend (now my husband) had been in an accident. I went to the hospital, again, in a space pod, to see him and found that he seemed totally fine. I remember him leaning over me, wearing glasses, and me thinking “But you look fine! Why are we here?”

I dreamed that I was in a swimming pool a lot, and that I had some very uncomfortable scuba gear on (clearly my respirator). While I was swimming I realized that I had grown a mustache, and I was mortified. I decided that I simply had to remove it, and since I couldn’t find tweezers, I just grabbed the mustache and yanked. This was me yanking out my respirator.

At some point my brain must have realized that I was institutionalized, because in my dreams, I became confined to some sort of room where I couldn’t move much. It felt like school. My friends and I were trying to plot a way out, while hiding from the room monitor, whose name was Panda. There was also a room monitor who was dressed like a hipster, wearing a trucker hat, but instead of a head he just had a block of wood, and instead of arms he just had sticky Jolly Ranchers, all stuck together in arm shapes. He kept pawing at me with his sticky candy hands, and I hated him. I hated him a lot. (The stickiness was actually all the medical tape that was all over my body and had to be changed out every day. It took weeks to remove all the black gummy adhesive.)

I plotted my escape from this weird institution constantly, and at some point, the head of Kareem Abdul Jabbar from the 80s started tracking my movements. It was Kareem wearing 80s basketball goggles and rocking a fade haircut, and it was just his head. It would pop up next to me as I discussed escape options with my friends, and at some point, it occurred to me that he might not be real. To test this, I would try to hit him in the face. Constantly. “Not real” I would say before leaning over and punching him.

I don’t really remember coming out of the coma. Once they figured out what was wrong with me they took me off of the stuff that kept me under, and I slowly regained consciousness. I remember wondering why I was strapped down, and I remember seeing my parents, my boyfriend, and my best friend Jamie and feeling relieved.

And eating ice. They wouldn’t let me eat anything, or drink anything (I had tons of IVs), so instead staff would bring me cups of barrel-shaped ice, and I would scarf them down like it was Thanksgiving. I remember eating ice one day, the task taking all my concentration as my muscles were completely atrophied, and looking over at Jamie, who was hanging out in my room. “Are these different flavors?” I asked in my croaky damaged voice, as I was convinced that each ice cube was slightly colored, and slightly fruit-flavored.

“Nope” Jamie said, as if it was the most logical question on earth. “It’s just ice.”

“Oh, okay.”

I can’t speak for all coma patients (and it’s racist for you to expect me to), but my experience was very much tinged by what was actually happening to me. So don’t assume a coma patient can’t hear you. They may be hearing you and creating a sports icon character just for you.

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26 Comments

  1. Friday Night! « Gerry Canavan said,

    [...] Gynomite! has an interesting post about the dreams Emily experienced while she was in a medically induced coma several years [...]

  2. Single Kontakt zum Flirten aus Essen said,

    Monkey see, monkey do. (Children see , children do).

  3. christine barger said,

    Now, this is getting creepy. First, I’m creepy, trolling your website again, hoping you’ll upload long lost video clips of our song and dance numbers, and i come across this. That Gerry Canavan fellow above that posted? Yeah, I recognized his name. I’m pretty sure he went to my high school in New Jersey. What?

  4. Bruce Ang said,

    I have never found a more accurate post on this subject. I find it very interresting.

  5. Paul Hymers said,

    This article is amazing. Three years ago I entered the hospital with a severe case of double pneumonia and was placed in a medically induced coma. The dreams I had were so dark and vivid that I was convinced that they had really happened. I received strange looks from friends about my comments and finally realized that these terrible things did not happen. I also dreamed about a doctor who treated me but I never saw while I was conscious. I had no way of knowing he was there. Today I decided to check google to see if anyone else had ever had the same experiance. All I can say is I never want to go there again. I saw people being killed and woke up with the feeling that I had been hospitalized for years.

    • Paulette said,

      I honestly had the same as you… they were very dark and scary… Everyone was trying to kill me in my dreams and when I woke up 2 weeks later I still believed my partner and the docs, staff were all in on it… toke me a long time to realise non of it was real. Never want to go back ever!

  6. sledog said,

    i spent the time from 8/12/2009 till 28/2/2010 in a coma and had many wierd dreams. some were very disturbing, like being locked in a cage so small i couldnt move. but i also had some uncany dreams that are so close to things that have happpend since i have been awake that it feels like im back in the coma. how can i dream things that are happening now? i did hear people talking to me. i definatly remember my sons voice and coments he made that there was no doubt about it, i have mentioned this and was told that it was said. but i still remember all my dreams like im still there. they keep me up nights.

  7. Don Free said,

    I also have experienced the vivid, unusual dreams of being in a coma. I was in a coma for 30 days in 2001. I was fighting meningitis and sepsis on a ventalor. I remember being always thirsty. Being in the back of a van in line to get a coke at McDonalds. I also remember so many more things then I wish to write right now.
    I remember sitting in a hospital bed w/ my wife next to me. The nurses told me there would be this old lady coming in later at lunch time. She traded scripture reading for my box of milk for the needy. I couldn’t see her face, but she had the profile of my Great grandmother, who was very, very religious.
    I also remember this person in my face while I was standing on a ladder fixing a roll up garage door asking me if I was going to die or comeback. the person had glasses, it was my wife.
    My turning point was being in a hallway that was black as night. There where these brilliant colored strings of light, bands of multiple colors from the ceiling to the floor and some shorter. They went the length of the hall, they were making this electrical loud snapping sound. I felt normal in the room, I was just looking around like i was in a museum or something.
    I was peering around the corner and there were more brilliant strings of color, and at the end of that hall another turn which was glowing brilliantly.
    -Dez

  8. Health Insurance: A Love Story. « Gynomite! said,

    [...] you’re a regular Gynomite reader, you know that I had a huge medical scare in 2007. I write about it from time to time. Way back then at the end of 2006, I had just quit my job because it was a [...]

  9. Chris Higginbottham said,

    I entered Mayo Clinic almost two years ago for a routine surgery. I was expected to be in the hospital two days. After two days I was not doing well at all. I was very weak, could barely stand, and felt like a elephant was sitting on my chest. After telling my doctor this, I was evaluated by ICU team, and whisk off to ICU. Within hours I was put on a vent, and did not wake up for 30 days. I was placed in a drug induced coma. It was later discovered that during my first surgery they had nicked my small bowel. Which lead to kidney failure, sepsis, irregular heart beat, and a second surgery to repair the bowel.
    I experienced these very vivid dreams during my time in the coma. I also was extremely thirsty, and dreamed all the time about getting someone to give me something to drink. I could write a book about all the dreams. They did not feel like a dream at all, they seemed real. In my dreams my husband had left me for another woman. I was tormented by this in my dreams. Upon waking up I believed that my husband had in fact left me, and could not be convinced otherwise. I remember telling a physical therapist that I didn’t know where I would live after leaving the hospital. When my husband arrived at the hospital and acted completely normal, I was even more confused. I didn’t know what was real or what was dream state.
    The doctors and nurses did an amazing job treating me, and bringing me back to good health. I am, however, surprised that no one deals with what the patient experiences during that drug induced coma. Two years later, I can remember most all the dreams I had during my coma.
    Chris

    • 'Synchronicity' said,

      The thirst you described was exactly what I had experienced. What a complete hell. I dreamed many dreams of finding water, ginger ale, and diet coke. I begged for ice everyday after I was awakened from the induced coma, however I had no strength or voice to get anyone to understand me. I would try and suck the water out of the mouth swabs they used when they cleansed my mouth. It was pitiful. I drank a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew as soon as I passed my swallow test (I finally had my trach removed). The extreme thirst we endured is a sign of insufficient hydration. For me, I had renal failure and was on dialysis, so of course my IV fluids were infusing rather slowly…but the pain is inexcusable. I was induced for about 7 weeks for sepsis secondary to infective endocarditis… leading to multi-organ system failure.
      The dream you explained about your husband is such an incredible gift that you received. If anything, I see it as a sign that you have ‘truly’ realized your love for him and could not live without him. It’s only natural to dream of infidelity, especially when there is mutual love.
      Besides the dreams of drinking fluids, I had dreams varying from being a ‘one-hit wonder’ superstar…to being in a wedding to an ex-boyfriend. But, the dream that has forever changed my life, was a dream I cannot even explain in the English language, nor could I risk the chance of devaluating it’s beauty. White sands, bright colored symbols forming a puzzle that I had to solve and ‘move’ through, and an escape of time. I spent many hours of my life searching for it’s meaning. I now understand that there are no answers. We feel the resolution. That is all I can explain… but the feeling we receive from these dreams lies deep within us. We cannot pinpoint their origins or even begin to explain many of them. I have, however, never been so enlightened. It is hard to explain but I feel an inner peace within me that is so serene.

      We are all one.

      Thank you so much for your story.

      • Greg said,

        I am so glad that i found this page. I had almost the exact same experience as you, Torment pain , a puzzle trying to find my way out. I am almost in tears after reading your post. I hit a truck head on last year and was under for 5 weeks and i am still haunted by what went on in my head. THe dreams were so vivid it took me awhile to sort them out from reality .I am still trying to figure out if some of them were warnings from God,or maybe a mystery that i need to solve now that i am as healed as i am gonna get. And yes the puzzle! or almost like a game i had to play to get out. Someday i hope i can put it all on paper,but for now it is still to disturbing

    • d.m shorrocks said,

      when I was in my induced coma the places that I whent to and the places that I was taken to have remained so clear in my mind and as far as memerys of my life go the time in coma and the ventilator are some how stamped on my brain. the persuit for water ice or eny drink was so complicated and eventualy I had to steal cans of tango from a vending machine that had been damage in a demectical argument between two oriantle people a old man who played piano and a young lady who played the violin I was sat in a wooden room and had sat down next to a woman who I then started to snuggle up two she was very nice she looked at me I remember she was pale wiv brown eyes and dark hair she was wearing big boots and a big soft fluffy jumper I wanted to stay wiv her she told me I shudnt be wher I was. then .the argument started between the old man on the piano and the young lady who played the violin , the wooden room began to fall apart the vending machine fell and the two cans of tango rolled over to me so I pick them up and headed back to my bed I hid the tango under my mattress and for ages I realy believed the tango was ther . and try for days to get it but cudnt . I have never imagine that I cud ever feel so firsty . the people who was arguing in the wooden room I new them I new why they wher fighting and this was one of so meny places and things that happened in the coma .that dream or whatever happened was nice compared to the other places and dark side I visited and was taken to on a trolly rolled ther and them places was the hell in my brain. I do live my life very different now and never whish to return back ther again .

  10. Joe said,

    I had the same experience. Valve surgery induced . I could write a book, I was fighting to stay alive. Dr. were trying to let me die for parts. I guess I could hear them. I red lined 5 times and I remember vividly not breathing. I would count to the 3 minute mark and they always revived me. I new I wasn’t breathing. The dreams were crazy wild and I guess every time I had a visitor and they spoke to me they would be propelled into my dreams….

  11. Jeff said,

    wow….you nailed it. I was induced because of legionnaire’s disease 2 years ago and you incorporate the metaphors in your dreams to the reality of the medical procedures expertly. My experience was much more nightmarish but I can definetely relate to your observations.

  12. Lee said,

    Whoa… I’m still totally freaked out by my coma dreams … Pneumonia / septic shock… 3 weeks in coma, jan 17 to Feb 7th… Wife passed away on Feb 12… Good times…not!! i still can’t talk about what I dreamt about to the ppl I dreamt about. Don’t want to sound like a nut job. I’m Sooo glad to hear I’m not alone in this…My dreams are still effing with me today….maybe it’s everything I dunno…I feel alone although inknow I’m not.

  13. Jillian Edinboro said,

    Jilly said……
    I was in a coma for 4+ weeks in the summer of 2002. On waking, I couldnt use my hands, walk, talk nor recognise my family, including my daughter! I didnt know who I was, where I was, or why I was there. Gradually my slurred, inaudible speech returned and with physio I have made a pretty amazing recovery but…. THOSE NIGHTMARES!!! I had a very hard time differentiating between what Id dreamt, (those Nmares were vivid, wild and REAL), and the reality of what I was being told. I still cant shake them – they were violent, disturbing, scary, and one storyline just blended into another. Still find it all very upsetting 8~( and, there is no one to speak to who really, truly can understand the magnitude of these feelings. Everyone around u is just happy you recovered but, the psychological impact only you are left to deal with. I say to myself often, I should write a book about that whole experience. Im sure it would be of help to an organisation such as Headway… uuumh? Very grateful to have stumbled upon this forum – its comforting to know Im not alone in this ‘twilight zone’ experience.

    • Pris said,

      Jill, I had the same experiences with dreams while in a medically induced coma in Feb 2012. Most of the dreams were disturbing and the story lines blended together. My dreams were very real – to the extent that when I started telling my family members where I was – Westchester cathedral in England they looked it up and it was exactly where I was. I even told people I had my heart attack in England. I now look at the pictures on line and remember all the details. I live in Michigan and have never been to England or ever heard of Westchester cathedral until after I “escaped” the coma dreams.
      After reading all these post – I have something in common with each of these stories – mainly being so thirsty, strapped down (to the point my arms bled), the elders of my family didn’t believe who I was. Un stitching my arms from my own casket to escape and the funeral my husband had for me. It was awful and these dreams still haunt me. I truly understand your feelings as I have them to. When I was a child I had a near death experience and it was nothing like this. These were nightmares. They are still nightmares and probably always will be. By the grace of GOD, I am alive and breathing today – so I just deal with the memories and pray I don’t ever have to go through that again.

  14. Sue said,

    Wow it’s so nice to read a story like my own personal journey of my 17 day coma in 2010 with varicella chicken pox, I dreamt the whole time in my coma.. I can relate to how you felt and would be feeling still today..
    I started a Facebook page called Coma Dreamers hoping to chat with people who have experienced these life changing dreams.

  15. Stephy said,

    Hi guys, I’m doing research on the dreams that coma patients recall upon waking. I’m working on my Bachelor’s degree right now and if any of you would like to help me with my project I would be greatly indebted! If you would like to share you dreams with me please feel free to contact me at missloxxx85@yahoo.com. Also, if you would like me to cite your name please let me know.

    An interested student,
    Stephy

  16. Marilyn said,

    One year ago I had open heart surgery. The complications beginning in surgery and following for many days involved dropping blood pressure, shock, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and multi-organ failure. The DIC caused a showering of small clots to my brain and extremities. I was in a medically induced coma for six days and at one point the medical folks believed I’d die. I did not, obviously, but I did have significant experiences while in coma, most of which I find fascinating. I am a psychologist by career so naturally interested in this sort of thing.
    As many of you have said here, some of the hallucinations I had when in coma and for a few days after were frightening. A few were not, and seem spiritual in nature. Many, when I evaluate them, make sense in that they portray how my body was feeling at the time, my almost-death, and the horrible pain and discomfort and fear I was in.
    I am not sure what to do with all this, but feel I want to do something. This is the first place I’ve found to write about it. I want to feel less alone. My body has recovered well, but my spirit and psyche are still in process.
    Any replies or resources people have would really be appreciated.

  17. Ummuabdilqawee Bint Kennith said,

    My uncle was in a fire and as a result was in a coma. He said that he was being taken care of doctors and nurses in his dreams in a big place that looked like a museum. Time continued and he was there for years. Nurses would come and tell him that they were there to take care of him. There was a balcony and a big lake, so big that he couldnt see the other side from his balcony. He kept saying to himself that if he could get off of the balcony that he could escape. However, no matter what he did he couldnt get off of the balcony.

  18. Glenn said,

    Dec.29, 2011, I collapse unconscience in my living room. I have some vague recollection of the ambulance ride. The emergency room gave me every test they could think of. On Dec. 31th, in front of family and friends they said I was going to the ICU to be put in coma and have a mechanical ventilator installed. I my case, after 13 days I awoke. In my case, I believe the hallucinations were all from the 2-3 days before entering the coma. My doctor later told me that I was severely ill, in and out of being delirious and combative was “fighting the infection. I vaguely remember screaming about things that was not actually there. afterwards friend confirmed my behavior while in the coma as being death-like. Not moving, no delirious behavior. One nurse asked me if I recognized her as the nurse I was fighting with to escape the hospital. I was stunned to barely remember the event. Another friend said Iooked out my third floor window and saw a patient dive head first straight into the ground. He said I was freaked out and screamed out
    what i had saw. The same friend said I told him to grab my M-16 and helmet behind my bed and help the American soldiers fight off an enemy attack. Even after going home I was still telling every that I ended up in the hospital because the F-18 Hornet jet fighter made a crash landing in the ocean, while myself and male nurse, a female Marine rode inside the cleaned out auxillary fuel tank attached to the belly of the plane . We were trapped for 6 1/2 hrs in 21 feet of water, screaming for help. There were at least a dozen or more hallucination which could not have occured while was in the coma. Is this strange to you?

  19. Karen said,

    That was very interesting. I too was in an induced coma in Jan. of 2013 for 2 months on a respirator and feeding tube. i too had very vivid dreams that went on and on. The main characters in my dreams were people the I have been associated with but do not see on a regular basis. I have written down 27 pages of the dreams so far. I cannot forget them. It’s so vivid to this day. I always had a child in my dreams but found out that I could never really see his face and he never moved much but it was the foam pillow they had me propped on when they turned me. When coming to I think that is what it was I had cinnamon toast dancing on hangers with fire covering the floor under my hospital bed. And yes I agree the ice was the best thing ever. I had a trach so I could only have a couple of pcs here and there.. I always seemed to have tragic dreams that had to do with water, drugs, and being tied down or couldn’t get up. I finally came around and off the ventilator the middle of Feb. Went in ICU with double pnuemonia on NYE. My first meal on Valentines day in a rehab unit where I felt paralyzed for losing all muscle tone.. but I’m pretty much back to normal…just a crazy thing. Had no idea where I was or how long I had been there.

  20. Chris Higginbottham said,

    I have found each of these stories interesting. All our experiences were similar. I was at Mayo Clinic during my ordeal and got the best of care. I have always thought it would be beneficial if the hospitals would treat the psychological issues as well as they do the physical issues. I remember feeling like I had lost my mind, and wondered if the doctors were thinking the same. I didn’t share what I was thinking, or struggling with, psychologicially because I was worried I would be deemed mentally unstable. To this date, I feel like the impact of this experience mentally on the patient is completely overlooked.

    • d.m shorrocks said,

      last summer 2013 was very hot and I was feeling the best I had ever felt and had bin getting up early and sun baithing in my garden then one day I had a coff it wasn’t bad but I believed I had swallow sum bristles of my toothbrush . but after a few days the couf was still ther and I was coufing up blood. and had started to swet so much from my head and chest that I cudnt wear my clothes cos they wher drenched in a instant .so I went to the doctors and was told I was fine I told him no I never had bin like I was ever before . he told me the reason is the hot weather . so other the next four or five days I was getting weeker and was still coufing I hadn’t slept for 4 days and at about 5 am in the morning I phone my mum and was angry and shouting and telling her to tell my dad I am ill coz he hadn’t let me take a bottle of cavonia coff medicine from his house I am 41 years old and and I have no idea why I was blaming my dad for how I was my mum was at my house in 2 minuets wiv the cavonia . and strait away I was telling her to phone a ambulance but I realy didn’t wont her to and enyway she did and the ambulance was ther so fast . and on the way to hospital I was thinking I shud be back home before ten am . I was wrong coz I was then put in a induced coma and I remember so much deatail about the places I enterd in my mind and the real things around me I did no it was so hard to stay alive and the sounds of clicking and a high pitch electronic type sound and I was lay down and was slowly moving past colours that wud take a shape and grow like the black was like like pillows of smooth plastic and then the purple was like a slimy tube with the clicking noise moving me fru as if I am on a conveyer belt then the blew wud start to push me fast and it seemed to be a part of me then the green took over like a huge like dinasour and it grew and took qver like a mountain and then I wud feel to be at the top the noise of natzi zee hi and a stone like image of adulf hitler wud appear . this is so difficult to explain but It was non stop and was to repeat on and on it was horrible but I started to hear my family and I new my mum and sister was ther I hear them and ther voice I hear telling me I was gona be ok was my sister she new I cud hear her then her voice wud speed up and to a high speed and then I wud be back in the black .I believe I cudnt ever fully explain wot was going on but wud never be able to survive this ever again I still don’t no wot happened to me fully but I haven’t fully recover and have to take tablets fore ever and my heart was damage ,I did learn one thing and that was that my family love me and I realy did need them ..

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