I was in coma for three months as the result of a motorcycle accident in Thailand. During recovery I searched the internet for advice but couldn’t find much so I have written about my experience in the hope it can help others. I’ve copied a couple of posts to this page, but you can click here to filter by coma.
Afterwards I was sentimental having forgotten much, I thought of the past in grandiose terms. Apparently I was taking Xanax quite heavily at the time of my accident, first by doctors prescription for Meniers disease. That was why I was in Thailand, for Xanax without prescription. I do remember taking the drug, once popping 10 or more pills.
My identical (monozygotic) twin’s blog about the early days of my coma is at http://mjhomb.wordpress.com/. I feel I need to use the word monozygotic because there are so many twins today through IVF.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is considered in the documentary ‘coma’ that tracks several coma victims over three years, I did HBOT. The film was critically acclaimed when it came out produced by Lisa Garbus. One of the victims died, another’s brain couldn’t process the sound from his ears, for me it’s the right side of my body.
Like me a victim was married after coma, Tom Segars was married and they had a baby. Another victim was permanently vegetative. The common effect for victims was the brains inability to process stimuli. An interesting thing in Tom’s recovery was that his father started a blog for him, he couldn’t, which talks of HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen treatment). My own site talks of the same. His father noticed progress in his recovery after HBOT, Tom could walk in the water unassisted after HBOT, he couldn’t before.
For my recovery I too noticed improvement after HBOT. My monozygotic twin brother put me on a course of HBOT at the established therapy centers www.hypermed.com.au. I think I started to improve when I did each session in an oxygen chamber. The person who administered HBOT was a proven therapist by the name of Mal Hooper. I suspect the only reason I can manage my own blog now is because of HBOT, not to mention my overall progress.
Several of my friends contributed to the costs for HBOT hoping for my recovery. So my advice to other coma victims is definitely try HBOT, for me the process was to be put in an oxygen chamber for about an hour each time, maybe once a week for a month, the theory being that oxygen is central to the health of cells, especially brain cells.
A list of all the defects I’ve experienced since coma. Thinking about this site and how best to help other coma victims I decided that the best approach would be to tell others of the problems I’ve encountered.
Obviously with my many physical defects resulting from coma, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), I’ve found it difficult to get around. Well I’m out of the hospital bed, wheel chair and walking frame but still need a walking stick after nearly 4 years. It’s like the brain is learning to walk again. A child takes a long time learning to walk properly. My ankle appears to be the main problem, I was told in hospital heel first then toe. I need to make the ankle turn up to do that, my left one does it automatically but not the right, I must mentally try to make it turn. Also the toes on my right foot still point to the heavens especially the big toe, I often use my brain to try and make them point straight ahead. Difficult mental adjustments of the toes, they aren’t normal yet. I still can’t use my walking stick with my right hand after years of trying, I do sense some improvement. Neurologists now say the brain can relearn. I go to the gym regularly to try and teach my brain again about my body. We are soon to travel to Vietnam, which will test my mobility again, travelling has really helped my mobility I think. Of course it would, to try and be active and not staying put because of my little problems.
My balance has become bad, I trust my left side much more than my right. Several times each day I try to lift my left leg and stand only on my right, I have to hold somethings while trying, I try to hold with my right but it doesn’t always work. I try to use my right hand on stairway rails. I always find it difficult to stand in the shower but I must do that every day. I try and use my right hand in the shower to wash my hair and lather but must use the left sometimes. Also I try to brush my teeth with my right but still must use the left occasionally, maybe half half.
I get many cramps in my right foot, I’m not using my arm so much because it doesn’t work well, I have to use my foot often to try and walk. Perhaps it’s the use of the foot that causes the cramp but I don’t remember getting cramps before. I suspect circulation has something to do with it, perhaps my mind is reacting and interpreting the sensations of my body differently and not like before and judging unusual stimulation generically as cramp.
I suspect my blood circulation is bad too. I get skin rashes after cramp, the skin doesn’t know its natural place anymore. There are suggestions on the Internet that many of the defects I have from coma relate to blood circulation. Perhaps my body has forgotten this activity too, how to move liquids through.
I have a hard time putting clothes on especially socks and shirts. I only mention this item because it does trouble me and I’m often thinking about it before I do something. It’s worse at the gym where I must put socks and runners on. When this improves I’ll be considering myself a recovered man.
I always think about needing to go even when I just went. I also had a problem with bed wetting and pissing my pants, always thinking about when to go and how to stop these accidents, I haven’t had an accident pissing unexpectedly for about 6 months because I’m always thinking about it and going to the loo just before bed
Many times when asked to fill in a form anywhere or country arrival form on the plane it’s always difficult. I’ve stopped keeping a diary except for this site, I use my iPhone with the left index finger.
My long term memory is bad and I must try to recall what I did yesterday. I forgot my age recently. Important event in my past I can’t remember, apparently I was married before for a year and then divorced but none of it I remember. Other significant events in my life are also forgotten, various family gatherings and weddings that I attended that anyone would remember I can’t.
I had some guardians which was obviously necessary when I was incapacitated but guardians need to know when the control of a person’s life becomes unsustainable. Important for monetary and legal reasons at the worst of it but not appropriate for a victim who is approaching normality or for the guardian to questions personal, emotional, decisions. It can impede recovery when people don’t take them seriously in their thinking once they can actually think independently and logically again. I received an email from someone who read this site that reminded me of this, my biggest problem from coma. I must have forgotten what troubled me so much a short time ago. The doctors said I would require institutional care for the rest of my life which I guess impacted the guardians thinking. I was recently re-married about 1.5 years after coma, obviously she deeply cares for me to marry a coma victim. And so I left my family for a woman I was with prior to coma, my guardians (family) tried to legally prevent this marriage. We were engaged prior to coma and at the time they tried to prevent our marriage we had known each other for about 10 years. We eventually got married in Singapore, none from my family attended. After we were married I had to legally put an end to guardianship and their attempts to control my life. Every decision as guardian should be to help the victim through this ordeal, not to control. Indeed everyone involved in a new reality needs some time to adjust to the difference, I certainly required that.
I frequently think of something to do or check but just when I’m ready to act I forget what I was thinking. I’m always planning like never before as far as I can remember, planning what to do next. It’s really my memory that makes me think of this section ‘mind’. I suspect that I am the same person after coma , my thoughts and feelings are the same, but I can’t remember. Perhaps this heading shouldn’t be here at all but the ‘mind’ is an important thing for all people and something not to be ignored. I was quite a thinker they tell me before coma, always in my mind, I don’t know what they mean by saying that? Perhaps I am just being myself again with this section ‘mind’ as a heading on the page ‘defects’, and I’m in my ‘mind’ now. At least the heading ‘mind’ reveals my deep rooted defects arising from coma… Maybe they were always there, these deep rooted defects, and only through coma had the opportunity to surface…
Dear fellow coma victims, at a favourite restaurant in Thailand I had a regular dish, mussels in a white wine sauce with lots of garlic and considered the taste. I was eating large chunks of garlic but couldn’t discern the flavour. The texture yes as it’s one of my favourite things about food. The garlic texture is like onion, I remembered garlic having a strong flavour but never really got it. So a discussion about senses ensued, how all humans interface with the world… Indeed taste is of a different order to language, what does beetroot really taste like? Difficult to transpose to language without food comparison. Our basic words to describe taste might include sweet, bitter, salty, savoury, crunchy, spicy, hot, chewy et al. My observations were that coma had effected a very subtle human ability, to discern between food stuff and taste. I was an apprentice chef at a famous French restaurant in Melbourne and taste was extremely important to me, a big interest. I was very attuned to taste, it disappoints me that it too is something I must learn again.
Sight In the documentary coma some people’s sight was effected, I have had problems looking through my right eye, nothing too bad and it’s pretty much normal now but at times I felt it was effected too.
Sound In the documentary coma a person lost his hearing after coma, fortunately I haven’t noticed anything.
Taste I was an apprentice chef at one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne, Miettas, and taste was extremely important to me but now I can’t even taste garlic, a favorite seasoning before coma. And I previously had at leatst 5 chillies with Som Tum salad but can’t take 1 in any dish nowadays.
Touch I’ve become left handed since coma. In early days there was always pins and needles in the right, the entire right side misbehaves and the sense of touch in it is diminished.
Smell It has been said by people that I have lost my sense of smell. I cannot smell disgusting things anymore I’m told. If there are pervasive bad smells I can’t.
I think I wouldn’t have recovered as well as I have without HBOT. In fact it marked the beginning of my recovery, perhaps just thinking about getting better helped. HBOT helped me to have a belief of how I was in the past and something to aim for. I’m convinced hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulated brain operation. Oxygen is fundamental to the brain and human health, I think it helped build new pathways.
Be deliberate in all things. Walking Deliberately with every step has helped I think. Focussing on my foot placement on the ground, how I use the bad leg for balance helped to build the pathway. The upshot is don’t regard yourself as a vegetable. Act with purpose complementing the brain for correct action. Consciously think about what you are doing. Perhaps in time life will again become automatic. It’s also been good for life not to be automatic, like a child again mentally active in every action.
Activity using my brain with purpose to learn new things and also using memory, to remember for exams, helped a lot I suspect. While I failed, stimulating the brains typical use in a focussed way also encouraged old and new pathways. I’m now studying technology again online, AWS, which is reminding me of my old jobs.
Also I keep a calendar on my phone. I need to remember what I did to update it, also it’s a great reference for what I’ve done and plan to do. Always making sure it’s up to date with all activities past and future.
Confusion is a human condition. I think I’m recovering from coma as my mind seems to be more jumbled, confused. Perhaps it’s like it was before, life is sometimes confronting and confusing for everyone I think. At times a messy experience. One needs to make judgements all the time and be assertive. We are immersed in thought, and under a rain of judgement by others. I suspect these attitudes represent normality, recovery from coma.
You have to convince others of your judgements which may be disputable and can lead to confusion. Judgement is an individuals opinion, and there is fact without colour. Coma victims should learn to accept confusion rather than fight against. Confusion is actually the norm, the state of play, something to be overcome revealing an aspiration for truth. Humans have always tried to overcome confusion through the likes of science and religion. We’ve always made thought its enemy, to know, not be confused. Welcome back to normality, confusion I’m back. Some confusing things: life, it’s meaning and many judgements.
You can leave a comment on any page or post, there were several such comments that have been deleted when I changed the site. But I was thinking of having a page dedicated to comments to encourage interaction. When you attempt to leave a comment WordPress asks for your email address but you don’t need to provide it. If you just click submit after typing your comment it will post, I made some changes to the settings and did a test comment which appears as ‘anonymous’ on this page. I reply to every comment.I believe these things help coma victims.