Dealing with waking up from an induced coma

Dear readers. Some of you might have read the post on my dad's severe pneumonia and induced coma this February. He has endured so many ups but also terrible downs as did I being time three times he wouldn't survive. Well he is still here and though still with ups and downs, slowly waking up out of his nearly two month lasting artificial sleep. He is struggling ... sedation makes him forget what has happened to him resulting in various panic attacks evert time he wakes up after sleeping. He cannot speak due to tracheostomy nor can he move. I feel very upset seeing his hartrate and bloodpressure rise lang times. It's a difficult balance for his doctors and nurses to try and stop sedation completely. Can anyone relate? And what can I do to help him? It's hard of course to see him suffer.

9 Replies

  • Hi Debooorah,

    I spent almost 2 months in & out of induced coma's 5 years ago, I have no memory of that time at all even though I'm told I was awake at times, for me it was like being in a virtual world at times very scary and at other times just plain bizarre, waking up to find a tube strapped to your throat, unable to speak and finding it difficult to move because of so much muscle wastage can feel pretty terrifying.

    My wife kept a diary of that missing time and on reading it some months later I'm glad I can't remember any of it, it was very difficult to read that no one thought I would survive, but like so many other survivors on here we beat the odds.

    Coming out of sedation can lead to hallucinations as so many drugs are still in the body, my advice would be just be there when you can to reassure your dad as familiar faces and friendly voices talking about daily life at home etc. can help a lot in the early days, recovery can be a long slow and sometimes painful process as the body has been through major trauma which can take years to fully recover and come to terms with, but the community is always here to help, as they say we've been there and got the tee shirt.

    I hope your dad continues to make a good recovery and you look after your own health as he will need your support when he finally gets home.



  • Thanks Bill xxx

  • Hi there - I think I posted a few weeks ago to thank you for sharing your post, as I found it only a week or two after my Dad suddenly collapsed (I broke in and found him) - and was admitted to ITU with ARDS, severe sepsis - and then a few days later acute kidney failure.  Your post gave me comfort that other people were hanging in there too, and that I was not alone in how I felt - thank you so much for that.  My Dad was ventilated for over 3 weeks, and then had a trachie, and later a mini trachie.  I sat with him every day  he was asleep and for many of the nights too, not because it necessarily helped him any, but because it meant I could avoid panicking at home about what was happening when I wasn't there.  I too found the process of sedation holds very frightening, particularly when you could see him being frightened but I realised that this was the time I could actually do something helpful - and I spent this time holding his hand and talking to him clearly about how I knew it was really scary, but that I needed him to try and stay calm, take big breaths and trust me - we often tried to breathe slowly together and this seemed to help him focus.  It's not much I know, but we eventually got to a point where I could ask him to take his hands away from his face and not try to go for the tube, and he would listen and put his hands down - which meant we did not have to sedate him again - in this way, we gradually lifted the sedation over a week or so.  We also played his favourite audio book and music using a speaker in his room, and I often read to him from magazines and news papers.  I know that many people say under heavy sedation that patients cannot hear, but even the doctors and nurses observed that when he heard my voice, as opposed to theirs, his vitals seemed calmer and he seemed more inclined to do what he was being asked - I guess just the small thing of having something familiar in a very scary situation helped somehow.  Hang in there - look after yourself (as you know it will be a long recovery journey and you will need to be fit and well to hep with it) and it helped me to ask questions of the medical team so that I understood where the boundaries of all the vitals where, so that I didn't worry if they were not worrying about an alarm or something.  We're fully awake now, and on a renal unit (after another trip back to ITU last week after a bleed) and dealing mainly with the consequences of a long stay on ITU and the aggressive treatments they had to use.  Try not to expect too much, it took my Dad 10 days to speak properly once the trachie was removed, and his swallow reflex is still unsafe so he can't eat or sip water.  We have lost pretty much all his muscle strength and will need to continue physio to build that back up over several months, and we have had bumps in the road in the form of new challenges like the stomach bleeds resulting from so long without proper food, and the stresses of all the meds, but we take each one as it comes and try to accept that each setback means taking it one day at a time.  My thoughts are with you - I know what a horrendous time it is, but the teams in ICU are the best and they will I hope, support you through what is very familiar territory for them, even if it's not for us xxx  

    p.s - one other thing I have done (when he was able to talk) is to write a book for him of all the things that he believes have happened, that haven't (things like being attacked by the nurses and visited by people who haven't visited him) - he has some very vivid memories of things that just haven't happened, and it helps him to understand which are false memories and which are not, when he is able to look in the book

  • Hello Debooorah,

    adding to what Luckyone and Rachel wrote: the process of waking up is a slow process during which the person will have times where he seems "normal" one moment and in a crazy dream world the next. Looking back even the weeks after stopping the sedation drugs were more of a cloud than real memories to me.

    It took me one month to realise that I did spend more than - what I thought was - two nights in the ICU and that I was on a ventilator. My friends an family were surprised I couldn't remember when they started to talk to me after I was back home. (It came to an equal surprise to me).

    So do not expect he understand the situation, the place (ICU), the machines, the people, even if he appears so. What he will understand that he is helpless and will feel secure and calming to have familiar voices around him. Read some of the stories on ICU steps what people imagined, it is hard in this stage to distinguish between dream and reality. For example one of the memories I have is that I thought I was in a machine, stuck between two wooden plates, pressing my body together in a rhythmically. This was of course the ventilator forcing air into my lungs.

    Don't try to make to much sense of his panic attacks, but be around, talk to him much so he has a familiar voice.

    I wish your dad all the best you all the strength to go through this.


  • Hello there, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and  I really appreciate reading it from a family's perspective because I was a patient in intensive critical care for more than 4 weeks myself, and then another 4 weeks in acute surgical care unit. I became very ill as a result of Sepsis / Septic Shock as a result of a perforated bowel from a surgery. When I was in ICU, I also could not talk nor move. My hands and ankles were bound to keep me safe. I also could not hear - for some reason I have a little hearing but slowly my hearing s getting better. I was in ICU from mid July 2015 and eventually discharged mid Oct. 2015. During my time in ICU critical care unit, I was comforted to see my family and friends dropping by and even though I was under sedation, I could feel their presence. They held my hand, made my bed. I felt all these activities. I am not sure if your dad can feel the same but maybe he does and I hope he can feel your presence and love. It is difficult to see a loved some suffering so much. The best way to help your dad is to be there, just sit by his side, hold his hand and talk about  all the good times, talk about his future and recovery. It will get better. Everything takes time. I never thought I would recover, but here I am, 8 months later, living and trying my best to recover. It is still challenging to live each day but I hope things will get easier for me soon.  I wish you and your dad all the best.


  • Thank you Haly. I do hope you will keep having a good recovery. All the best.

  • My brother is in the ICU after a massive heart attack followed by cardiac arrest. he was in an induced coma for 8 days and woke up 2 days ago. He is experiencing similar hallucinations so this post and replies are somewhat comforting. Thank you

  • Just hang in there. I know now that the human body is capable of allmost everything. Together with mindset it's a recipe for a good recovery. All the best for you and your brother . And I hear you. Through what for me was the post difficult time in my life, this site was a huge support. It's what kept me hoping and going.

  • Hi Deborah, my partner also suffered coming out of his induced coma, he spent 7 weeks in ICU, he to suffered whilst trying to awake his personality was totally not him, to cut a long story short we had a meeting with his ICU Dr, a translator ( language was also a problem) and myself the Dr arranged for a change in my visiting hours so that I could stay for long periods of time whilst they reduced sedation to bring him round, I genuinely believe that this helped in the end, it took many attempts to get the reduction in sedation to a right level that enabled him to wake up slowly! We are slowly rehabilitating at home now! You will get there! Lynn x

You may also like...