Dad in ICU fighting pneumonia and is slow to wake... - ICUsteps

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Dad in ICU fighting pneumonia and is slow to wake up from induced coma

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Hi everyone. I’m wondering if anyone has any encouragement for our situation.

My dad is 78 but has always been extremely healthy - a marathon runner until his back stopped him from running and now he’s been an avid swimmer for years and has had no real medical issues. He had a stem cell transplant about two weeks ago as the last step in his treatment for multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer). Part of the process is your white blood cells going to zero so the new stem cells can create new ones. This makes you suceptible to infection and my dad ultimately got pneumonia. They decided he needed to be intubated to help him breathe so they put him in an induced coma and put the tube in. That was about 10 days ago and 4 days ago they stopped the sedatives.

He does have lowered kidney function because he went into kidney failure from the cancer about 6 months ago. He was able to come off dialysis but his kidneys don’t work at full function.

So he’s now been off sedatives for going on 5 days (Versed was what he was on) but has barely started to ‘wake up’. Yesterday for the first time he opened his eyes and began to react to pain stimuli. He’s also now breathing 100% on his own, although he’s still intubated. It’s obvious he hates the tube in his throat because he’ll wince and make expressions and cough like he’s trying to get it out. So we’ve been encouraged by his progress but he’s still unable to respond to commands (squeeze hand, move fingers, etc) and the doctors mentioned some concern about brain damage. There’s no reason he should have any that we know of though. It’s just scary to see him opening his eyes but it almost looks like no one is there. He blinks and sometimes seems like he’ll follow an object but it’s hard to tell. He did turn his head towards my mom and I yesterday and his eyes were open...he just doesn’t seem ‘there’ and hasn’t been able to respond in any way.

We’re just really concerned he won’t fully wake up. Tomorrow they’ll probably do an EEG and/or CT scan to see his brain function. I’m just wondering if anyone else has dealt with a very slow to wake situation after an induced medical coma. Any encouraging stories would be so helpful. Thank you!

4 Replies

After a two month come it took me 11 days to wake. They warned my family of similar things & I had all the same tests.

If you Dad’s kidneys are under par, it will take him that much longer to flush out the sedatives.

Wishing him a speedy recovery


I was in ICU for 9 weeks, most of them in a coma, and I think they took about a week to wake me up. Three years later I'm more or less back to normal.

The doctors were pretty gloomy when they talked to my wife. Don't give up, and good luck.


My dad went through similar situation-medically induced coma and not waking up right after being off sedatives. When a person will wake up really depends on how fast body recovers, heals and how fast drugs go out of his system. What I learned so far is that each person has its own timeline and recovery time can be very different, even for patients with similar conditions. People respond differently and some need less, some need more time. Age makes a difference and good physical condition usually helps with recovery. Be there for your loved one-hold their hand, talk to them, tell them to fight hard to get better and never lose hope.

At some point doctors were pessimistic about my dad’s progress, because he was not recovering as we were hoping and because EEG did not show good results. 54 days after cardiac arrest, he is conscious, talking, moving his arms and legs, sitting up with nurses’ help and standing on his feet with help of others. He is experiencing ICU delirium and ascites but doing better than what we initially hoped for. He survived 3 intubations, 3 pneumonias, 3 bacterias, urinal tract infection and surgery to repair his ribs (#2-7 were broken). My dad was an athlete and I think this helped him get through all of the above. He has a long way to go but we are still hoping for him to make a full recovery. We want him to beat the odds and be that one person, who surprises everyone.

Sending positive energy your way to help your dad recover.


I am sorry to hear your Dad is suffering. His good health as a runner previously will help in his favour. We as a family experienced a similar trauma with my younger brother. The best advice in retrospect we received is remain hopeful. The drugs used to induce coma will take time to pass out and it’s frightening to experience someone you love not responding or responding in a way that is so out of character. The kidneys we were advised will be the last part to start to work again. This is all good advice. The guide at this link may be helpful too.

My brother was on life support this time a year ago when his youngest child was 6. It broke my heart to see my brother suffering and my nephew and niece without their Dad. Exactly one year on my brother has made a full recovery. Please be assured that there are wonderful stories like ours. Every day I am thankful for the care he received and now I am a blood donor as a small way to pay back all the goodness we received from others. Thinking of your family. Stay strong.


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