The Coma

This is the story of my coma. The closest I had come to death in at least four years… if not longer. The whole ordeal is definitely up there with my worst experiences, although it is hard to compare apples and oranges. It was confusing at first and a completely different feeling of rehabilitation compared to other hospital visits. It really shocked me and I feel ashamed that I put my amazing friends and family through this terrible time.

Gloomy situation
I arrived at hospital just after midnight as I had been feeling really drowsy the whole day. I was not in any pain, but I had worryingly goopy black stool. With the blood-thinning medication I had been put on as a result of my aortic valve replacement, my blood was much much thinner than the average person’s. I had been warned by doctors that black stool could mean internal bleeding, so it seemed like a safe option.

I was pushed straight to the front of the Emergency Room line after telling them I take Marcumar (which stops my blood clot). I was pale and the nurses and doctors knew something was wrong. I am used to being in worrying hospital situations, so I was very calm. Something I had to reassure them as my resting heart rate was at a constant 130 bpm (beats per minute). It is rare that you see nurses visually apprehensive and baffled, maybe it didn’t help that I was cracking ‘jokes’.

In hindsight
To help give some perspective, I had something called Mallory-Weiss syndrome. I had a 5.6cm tear deep in my esophagus which had been bleeding into my stomach, hence the different colour stool. Possible causes of this are alcoholism, retching, coughing, vomiting or severe stress, my thoughts on which might have been the cause here… ‘I’ll drink to that’. A select group of friends choose to believe it was an especially hard piece of pizza I ate six days earlier.

I was losing blood at an alarming rate, as shown by my inability to keep in this awkward topic that I keep on using the less vulgar term for. But in hospital, they have bowls for under your buttocks and the nurses will wipe you clean. Latest by the third time I did it, I realised that this was not something that medicine could cure. It was degrading, embarrassing and felt like I had swallowed a handful of laxatives. They had wheeled me into a room to prep me for an endoscopy (small camera in my mouth and down my throat) to see what is wrong.

Failed attempts
“I haven’t done this in a while” laughed the male assistant as he threaded a needle into my veins. I am indifferent about needles, I’ve had them too often to care and only get annoyed if they fail several times. My unimpressed look the other direction as he finally got it in was countered by my disappointed but curious stare back to my wrist. It was as I thought. His hand had jerked while connecting the all-important tubes from my artery and I had felt my warm blood gush over the bed. His hands covered in red and my whole arm dripping, I was ready for the procedure.

They put me to sleep with something in my veins. How much time went by, I don’t know. I came to. The doctors seemed concerned. They told me to calm down. ‘I am always calm’ I slurred, this should be in my medical file by now. Something along the lines of “The patient has been through a lot, he is friendly, jokes around and a calm customer”. They were very comforting with a distant look in their eyes. Why they were putting me to sleep again, I didn’t know or care. Coma.

Fighting for life on 19.07.14. A bad fever hit me while I was in a coma. Photo: Susanne Mühlhaus

Fighting for life on 19.07.14. A bad fever hit me while I was in a coma. Photo: Susanne Mühlhaus

The first time, they had tried to glue the tear in my esophagus with some medical fibre glue, but each time they tried, it ripped open and more blood leaked into my stomach. It was so critical that they had decided to give up and put me in a medically induced coma. I had lost around half my blood. I assume they needed to wake me up first before the different coma therapy started. They reapplied the glue in my much more peaceful state and sealed the tear. Yet it needed to heal and it would be too dangerous to wake me up.

During the coma, I had actually developed a very high and dangerous fever. But I was in good hands with the nurses in intensive care and my mother by my bedside.

Middle of a conversation. I stopped. Wait, what? I thought. I had been talking to my mother. I was confused. Usually after procedures you remember waking up. My mother noticed my more human reactions and repeated what she had been saying to me for the past few hours. “You know you were in a coma right?” “Really? Cool, how long..?” “Three days” “Haha… what day is it?” “Monday”. Barely letting it hit me, I was happy to be alive.

Hospital recovery
The time spent recovering in hospital was peculiar. I had no scars, had had no operation and was not even in any pain, but still I felt weird. I noticed the first time I got up to go to the toilet and nearly fainted (my shit was still goopy black for a day). I was the life of the party three days ago at the festival- wait… no it was seven days ago. Where was this time? My body, in a vegetative state for 60 hours, was useless. Brain dead, no dreams, no awareness of time. No awareness of my mother reading to me for hours.

The body degenerates a lot after just three days of coma. I noticed again and again how weak I was when friends visited me. Getting tired from walking just 50 metres, but my brain couldn’t comprehend. Around 30 friends visited me in just a few days. It was so tiring. Some were asking me if they should come and I plainly just said no. After ten days total I was released.

Out and about
I was delighted to finally get out after a doctor mishap kept me there a day or two longer. Three weeks later I had a friendly football game with other alum against the parents and teachers of my school. After barely five minute of light jogging, I was exhausted and felt like I needed to puke. It took me about two months before I felt that I could start doing physical activities without feeling weird. I had no stamina and it was time to slowly start training it.

The coma or severe loss of blood also affected my brain. I always thought of myself to have a good brain that remembers and can understand stuff quickly and logically. I noticed time and again that I felt stupid. I couldn’t remember things I wanted to say or just quite comprehend some easy things. This too took about two months before I felt fine again. Very scary at the time, as I was not sure if it would be a permanent… as I wonder if I have forgotten to say something in this article.


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2 comments on “The Coma
  1. Joseph says:

    Seby! Such a well written story!!! Miss you bud!

  2. Thanks for sharing your view I found it verying interesting.

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