I was in a medically-induced coma for about a week a half in 2007. Here are some things I learned from it.
1. At least for my medically-induced coma, there is some awareness of the outside world. I incorporated the things I experienced into my very vivid dreams. When I woke up, I knew that my parents were there, I kinda knew I was in a hospital (I thought Kumail had had an accident), and I kinda knew one of my nurses. The surgical tape all over me was transformed into a guy who was chasing me with sticky candy hands. My brain found a way to assimilate, even when I couldn’t.
2. The hairs on your body that you pluck meticulously? They just grow. Unfettered. Don’t worry, everyone will ignore them.
3. People that work in the hospital will become friends with you while you’re under, and you will have to be okay with that. I wasn’t so much, I was kind of a grumpy bitch to people I thought to be strangers who had kept me from getting bedsores every day.
4. Your body will feel alien to you. Most likely, despite science’s best efforts, parts of your body will swell alarmingly from water retention. Only movement makes that go away.
5. Your nails will be gorgeously, mockingly long and healthy when you wake up.
6. Kill Bill was on the right track, but still a bit off. When The Bride woke up, she could move her arms and head, but had to drag her legs behind her until she got into the Pussy Wagon and willed herself to be able to walk again. That shit is false. It’s not a question of willpower- your muscles atrophy so much quicker than you think they will, and it takes weeks for them to get back to even a semblance of normal. I couldn’t lift a cell phone to my head for at least a week. But maybe the Pussy Wagon has magical powers?
7. There are random local and national news stories you’ll miss while you’re under that will forever feel relevant to you. While I was under, a fox wandered into a cafe in Chicago and curled up in a display case. I think about that fox from time to time.
8. No one will understand the overwhelming hurricane of emotions that you will have when you wake up. No one. And that’s okay, just hold on until the storm subsides a bit, and then start thinking.
9. You will always have a coma story.