Pneumonia and induced coma

Dear readers

I feel very worried due to my dad's condition. It all started with pneumonia. He entered our local hospital on January 5 and was transferred to a university hospital in Leuven here in Belgium on January 22. From then on he only got worse. And now he's in an induced coma. All his vital signs are ok but his longs seem to get a bit worse day by day. We are waiting to see change but so far nothing. And doctors don't know the underlying cause for his pneumonia. I don't understand. He's 53. Never smoked bever drinks alcohol. He is in fact a very healthy man with an enormous drive. Are there any experiences to share for I am struggling in this situation and I need some comfort I guess. Cannot loose him through this. It would be so unfair. Thanks.

33 Replies

  • My husband went through something very similar in 2014. He spent almost 3 months in a coma and on life support due to triple strep pneumonia. I asked everyone I knew and met to pray for him and by the grace of God he survived. He came home and the doctors said it would take 18 months for him to recover before he returned to work. He was back at work 6 weeks later. My husband was 59 at the time.

    I will pray for your father and your family. Never give up believing that he will be fine.

    God bless all of you.

  • Thank you so much for your reply. Every time I call or go to the hospital I am so scared of what they are going to tell me. But my mind is set on positive and whenever I am with him I talk to him in a positive way. I tell him what day it is , who's there to visit him, to stay calm and fight because I know he is capable. They say he cannot hear me but I have to try for the nightmares he may be going through can be terrible I've read. I touch him, trying to send positive energy and strength. He needs to pull through and he will. Gosh I feel so much of his fear. Crossing fingers that today meds will do their work.

  • Hello,

    though I am not familiar with Pneumonia, I have stayed in intensive care for some while (also sedated) here in Amsterdam.

    About not hearing what people say around you - it of course depends how deep they put you into sleep (there are various levels), but I have memories of certain situations and from description of my visitors I was receptive to interaction, so please continue with talking and touching (those are the only senses I could remember).

    From your description of what helps you (talking to him), you might want to start a intensive care diary, keeping track of what is happening around him and also putting your thoughts into words.

    My relatives and staff didn't do this, but I wish they did.

    blijf sterk.


  • Dank je Thomas

  • Writing a diary is so very helpful to the patient when they start to recover. We wrote a diary for my husband and his one-to-one nurses also added daily entries too. When he came home he read his diary almost every day and it helped him to understand what he had been experiencing. He thought he had had his teeth out whilst he was sedated but when we looked back through the diary, it was to do with his airway being readjusted. He also thought he had been put into a boat and pushed out to sea but it was the sensation he was feeling from his mattress. I do hope your father makes a good recovery but meanwhile talk to him, touch him and love him and do look after yourself too.

  • Dear Deboorah - I agree with Thomas' suggestion of keeping a daily diary. I wish my family had done this, when I was in intensive care. I think it may help you feel that whilst you are not exactly 'in control of events', you are at least recording and monitoring your father's progress. He may want to see and share the diary with you when he recovers.

    You are in a very difficult situation and I sense from your comments that you are surprised and puzzled by the fact that your father has got so ill, after all, you say he was a very fit man who lead a healthy lifestyle. So why should he get ill?

    unfortunately the reality is that even the healthiest people can get ill, quickly. A healthy lifestyle can protect only up to a certain point. On the other hand, you say he is strong and determined, and this will be a great asset in his progress and recovery.

    I hope you are soon able to see an improvement: stay strong and positive, he will pull through.

  • Thank you all so much for all these kind words. I know it's ups and downs and I will definitely start a diary. I hope all of you are well after your long recovery xxx

  • My partner was just 44 when she contracted pneumonia in both lungs. She was in an induced coma for 3 months. The road is long and hard but your dad is young and will fight all the way I'm sure. Speak to him all the time.....he can hear you. My partner survived as will your dad. Best wishes be strong. xx

  • Hi, My husband has had two brain haemorrhages, and both times was in a coma for several weeks afterwards. Especially the first time, he went in With "only" a brain haemorrhage, but then had a cavalcade of other problems, including his heart, an infection and his lungs. At one point, one of his lungs was collapsed, and the other was partially collapsed. His oxygen sats were always low, and he had a tracheostomy tube for many weeks.The ICU team couldn't understand why his lungs were having such problems. Eventually (both times) he woke up. It took several days for him to Wake up properly and be back to his old self. After the first incident, he was back at work part-time less than four months later, and full-time six months later. It is four months since the second incident and he isn't back at work yet but is doing well.

    I think it's relatively common that other important body parts and functions will have problems in ICU. They (ICU staff) don't always seem to understand why but are always trying to adjust Things and rectify the situation. Also, even though Things seem hopeless when someone's in a deep coma, they CAN come out of it, even after several weeks.

    When you talk to Your dad, be reassuring, tell him how well he's doing (this was sometimes hard, on the days when most of my husband's vital signs were going in the WRONG direction) and assume he can hear and understand what you're saying.

    Please look after yourself, too. Don't spend all your time at the hospital - go for walks, do yoga, go for a coffee With a friend, but do something for yourself.

    Hoping the best for Your Family.

  • I was 52 when I had double pneumonia, severe sepsis which caused multiple organ failure which was later complicated with ARDS, I to was a non smoker and fairly fit and visited my GP about once every 10 years.

    I had almost 2 months completely missing from my 3 months in ICU, thankfully my wife kept a diary of that missing time, keeping a record of not just what was happening to me but also who visited, what daily life was like for the family and some of her own personal thoughts, so many times she would think thing were improving, only to find the next day I had got worse again, it was a real roller coaster ride for all the family.

    I personally believe you can hear things while in a coma as I picked up on conversations I would of not been aware of, so keep talking to him if you feel it is helping

    It's now 5 years on for me, unfortunately my lungs suffered from the ARDS, so I was unable to return to work, but I have not let it stop me helping others through my work with ICUsteps.

    My advice would be try and stay positive, look after your own health and talk to friends and family about how you feel, sharing your thought can be a great relief at such a difficult time.

    My thought are with you at this traumatic time and hope your father is soon on that road to a good recovery.

  • Dear luckyone

    I've just found out my dad also developped arsd. And I am scared about his outcome. I am so afraid his lungs are allready very damaged ... but I hope the best. Thanks for sharing. Tomorrow is his birthday.

  • Hi Debooorah,

    I sorry to hear your dad has now developed ARDS, although it sounds very scary it can be treated, so stay positive your dad is fit & a non smoker which is very positive for him, when I developed ARDS I already had complications of pneumonia but also severe sepsis on top causing MOF and on dialysis.

    ARDS can cause damage to the lungs in varying degrees, my left lung became completely stiff & 2/3 of my right lung, so now my lung look like a patchwork quilt on a CT scan, but that I'm told is a very severe case.

    I suffered more psychologically than anything else, I can't do some of things I used to but I was given a second chance of life and I make the most of what I have.

    So stay positive, look after your own health and don't do an internet search on your dad's condition as it can be so misleading, but do ask the medical staff about any concerns you have and don't forget your dad is in the best possible place.

    Best wishes & happy birthday to your dad


  • Thank you Bill.

    They say now that his infection is decreasing so to me that sounds like positive news. His kidneys are working fine and his blood pressure is normal. He is strong. On the other hand, the xray of his lungs isn't improving. How is this possible when infection is decreasing? Maybe it needs time but doctors don't know why. It should improve of course for him to start to get better. Today he has been in a coma for a week. Let's all hope that his foto will improve today or tomorrow.

  • Dear Debooorah1985,

    I contracted Double-Necrotising Pneumonia and Severe Sepsis ( as well as Effusions and a Left lung Pneumothorax) because of the very uncommon PVL-MSSA bacteria which I'd picked up randomly..It can kill you very very quickly and has bad survival rates so I was very lucky I was taken to Hospital when I did..

    This was 3 years ago, I was 36 and very healthy,working out and hiking regularly & I hadn't had a sick day in work for about 12 years !

    I was admitted straight to ICU and put in an induced coma about 24hrs later for 7 days..I stayed in ICU for 2 weeks and then in a Respiratory ward for another 2 weeks before being able to go home.

    I was off work for 7 months but made a great recovery ; quite possibly because I was so healthy beforehand,Just like your Dad !

    These days I enjoy being back at the gym,dancing and hiking as I used to before my illness.

    I now feel very positive about my experience and hope your Dad can have improve soon and make a speedy recovery .

    All the Best.


    Catherine. XX

  • All these comments are very helpfull. I'd like to thank you all for taking your time writing replies. Your stories keep me way beyond hopefull.

    Thanks so much.

  • Please believe me when I say that he is in the very best hands, I am a survivor who was put in to an induced coma and I am forever in the debt to ALL the MEDICAL STAFF who

    nursed me.

  • Dear all.

    My dad is doing slightly better. Offcourse he's still in a very critical situation but the life support doesn't have to run 100% atm. It has been reduced to 55%. I know it's step by step and the waiting is torturing me. I keep strong for the entire family for his girlfriend and his brother aren't coping. And I do believe in positive energy I am trying to send him. Good news is welcome but I still fear. Time and fear are my worst enemies. But by all means thank you all so much for responding xxxxx

  • Dear Deboorah - I'm glad your dad is doing better, also, that you feel supported and encouraged by the comments.

    However - please do take the time to look after yourself, as mentioned here, eg dbyeti. It's extremely important.

    And whilst I appreciate your concern for your brothers and your dad's girlfriend, you are not their therapist, and I don't think you should burden yourself too much with their stress. Make time to give yourself some 'treats'.

    Best wishes

  • As survivors of critical illness, there are many issues we can still face in our recovery and rehabilitation but as a former patient myself, I think this most acute phase is so much harder for our relatives than us. We're being looked after, sedated, pain managed and everything is being done to help our chances and care for us. Through all of this most of us be largely or completely unaware of anything that's going on - but our relatives are the ones who are suffering one minute to the next. All of us here hope for the very best for your Dad, and all your relatives. He's in the best place getting the best care and it sounds really positive. Our thoughts are with you and hope that his condition improves.

    If you've not seen it already, the ICUsteps guide for patients and relatives has a lot of helpful information about the whole process of intensive care, including a section for relatives.

    Best wishes,


  • Yesterday doctors wanted to disconnect my dad because in their opinion his progress is hoog to slow. As for me I don't care how slow he's recoverring. But recoverring he definitely is! So I stood up for him for his infeccion is under control and his xray is better. Doctors are very negative saying yeah but it could go downwards again. So I understood it can happen but up until now he is doing good! All his vital signs are great. Today doctors had to apolagise for his xray shows improvement once again and they have been able to decrease the work of the breathing machine. I am so very fed up and I cannot believe the nerve! Please share tour thoughts.

  • Hi Debooorah,

    Well done to you for standing up for your dad, unfortunately some doctors can be very negative, I had a DNR placed on me 3 days into my time in ICU, my wife, son & daughter-in-law were taken into a small room and told they would not resuscitate me if I went into arrest that night as I was so critically ill, when asked what my chances of survival were, they were told less than 10%, fortunately it was removed the next day when the head consultant told my wife there had been a "miracle" in the night and I was well enough to be moved for a CT scan.

    A week later I had respiratory arrest when a mucus plug the size of a golf ball blocked my airway, causing 2 cardiac arrests while they fought to remove it, the nightmare for my family of the ups and down continued for most of the 3 months I was in ICU, one consultant telling my wife all the time they had something to work with they would never give up, at that time I had a 1/3 of my right lung working, the ARDS had made the rest go stiff.

    I think they tried every drug in the cupboard even brand new experimental drugs, at a cost that must have exceeded £250,000 which makes me so grateful for the wonderful NHS we have in this country, I often wonder if we had a different system would they have unplugged me and switched the machines off.

    I admire your dedication to your fathers health, it reminds me of my own daughter who was just 20 when I was in ICU, she would always pick up on the positives.

    I hope your dad continues to improve and my thoughts are with you at this difficult time.


  • Well Bill you are indeed a true survivor. My dad's two lungs were completely stiff. His right lung started to clear a few days ago. Hopefully his left one soon follows. Is it normal you reckon for his left lung to heal a lot more slower? Keeping my fingers crossed. Yes, here in Belgium we luckely have a great health system as well.

  • From what I can remember a lot depends on the level of infection in each lung, I had to have a drain in my left lung as it suffered far more infection, ARDS makes the alveoli the little air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid making them stiff, it's sometimes called shock lung, for reasons unknown some people get it with pneumonia and others don't but it's good to hear your dad is improving even if it's slowly, it can be a long road to recovery so being positive for him as I'm sure it will help and there's a great community here to support you to.

  • Stand up for your dad. Don't turn off anything. FIGHT! He hasn't been in a coma thar long. I know it seems like a long time. Give the meds a chance to work. My husband was in the coma and on life support for almost 3 months. He had to have dialysis, which they said might kill him. Numerous transfusions. I wouldn't let them turn a thing off. They all thought I was crazy but he's here today because I didn't give up. He had ARDS as well. Luckly he overcame all that stuff. At one point he had intetnal bleeding. We got through. You and your dad will too. STAND STRONG!! We are all praying for his revovery and your strength. God Bless you and your family!!!

  • Thank you! And I will. I allready have. And now they have to apologise for their words yesterday. That's pure madness and I will not give up on him ever! No one says I should so it's not only my emotions talking. It is damn common sense! They've made me more of a warrior than ever and I do believe my dad is furious as well: he tried to breath on his own today and that for me is a sign he is fighting.

  • Deboorah - thank you so much for sharing, I'm exactly 7 days into the process with my Dad who is 62. I and my 22 year old son found collapsed last Sunday when we broke into his house because he wasn't returning our calls. He had ARDS, Renal failure and severe sepsis when admitted to the hospital, and we don't have any idea why - despite the fantastic efforts put in by the NHS to test for everything you could think of. Your post made me feel less alone, the ICT environment has been terrifying for us, but I am talking to him and today, he appears to be listening and be calmed by my voice - hang in there and thank you for sharing with us x

  • Dear readers

    Thought you all might want an update on my father's story. After being on ecmo for over more than three weeks te got off. Sedation was stopped and he opened his eyes for the first time. We all were over the moon. He was fighting als 'getting there'. Yet he was sad and shetted tears every now and then. The day before yesterday he suffered a pneumothorax reducing oxygen levels and increasing carbondioxide again. Something had to be done or his heart would stop. He's back in a coma now un full ecmo (back in ecmo is very rare and dangerous procedure). Yesterday his xray showed his lungs are getting worse. We were so close but now he has to start to recover all over again. I don't think he will make it. I am devestated and going mad. I don't know how to deal with this situacion.

  • Deborah, we are going through something similar.  How is your Dad now? 

  • Hello. After three months he now is recovering still on icu with the breathing machine on standby. He is awake but cannot speak due to tracheostomy nor move due to muscle atrophy. All of that is reversible fortunately. He now has got a long road of recovery ahead. Mentally it's very hard for him. I think support of family is the most important. How are you? Take good care of yourself. Xxx

  • I am thrilled to hear your Dad is doing better!  My Dad is very critical. They say his lungs are too stiff. We are at 100% tonight. But we are praying for a miracle and will not give up. Thank you for your answer. You're inspiring and encouraging just when I need it the most. God bless you. 

  • Do not give up! My dad was on 100% and on ecmo and on extra nitrogen. Prognosis was very very bad.  Three times we were told he wasn't going to make it but look at him now.  He is doing amazing. So stand up and fight because your dad too deserves it. It's the hardest time ever but I will pray for him xxx stay strong for when he wakes up.

  • Thank you, Debooorah.  They are venting him in a different way now,and his organs are all functioning well, although the lungs they say are stiff and are probably fibrosing.  They say he is too fragile right now to have a CAT. We are all very hopeful and praying constantly.  I am reading stories of survival taking 3 months, etc, and we've only been going for 13 days so we are still early in this.  My Dad wouldn't give up on me.  I can't give up on him.  It is  just so hard to see him like this.   

  • It is the hardest indeed.

    My dad's lungs were 100% stiff, he too was too weak for a CAT. His condition is called ARDS but it is reversible! Don't give up. My dad fought for three months. I felt as if I was the only one whom he could rely on so I stood up for him all the time and I still am. You should too. Even if his kidneys start to fail (as was the case with my dad), that's quite normal in ICU. Never give up hope. If you say he's a fighter, chances are he will pull through.

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