I was in a coma for three months as the result of a motorcycle accident in Thailand. I have written about the experience in the hope it can help others and keep my friends aware of my progress. I was sentimental after coma having forgotten much, I thought of the past in grandiose terms. There are many posts that explore my condition. Apparently I was taking Xanax quite heavily at the time of my accident because of menier’s disease. My identical twin brother’s blog about the early days of my coma is at Mathew’s Recovery and for a site that considers the same click here. Links to my posts categories below, 4 important posts for coma victims are also copied. Today there are 229 posts, I’m sure more to come without updating that number…
HBOT is mentioned in the film ‘coma’ that tracks several coma victims over three years. The film was critically acclaimed when is came out and was produced by Lisa Garbus. One of the victims died, another ‘s brain couldn’t process the hearing sensations from his ears. For me it’s the right side of my body. A victim was married after coma like I was, Tom Segars was married to a sincere woman and they had a baby after his coma. Another victim was permanently vegetative. The common effect was the brains inability to process the stimuli of their bodies. 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. For Tom 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 identical twin brother put me on a course of HBOT at the established therapy center www.hypermed.com.au
I think my memory and mind 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 people contributed to the costs of 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, 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 rashes around my groin that won’t go away after daily treatment. They always return despite extra care. 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 the body.
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, indeed normalisation is a very slow process, I have concluded that the new brain pathways must learn everything again Heel toe the best and most pressing example. I am uncertain the new pathway wasn’t previously used for something else and it’s unnatural for leg operation. I still need a walking stick after more than 5 years but slowly less and less. I wonder at what age as children we develop a complete command of our body parts. At least not all pathways were destroyed by my coma, I’m imagining how bad it could be and probably is for many coma victims. I always wonder about the non physical effects, like empathy or love etc, so many emotions to consider, are these feelings too located in parts of my brain that were damaged by coma? Then again I wonder if they are actually stored in the brain, maybe emotions (person to person) are in the environment by association and we access such feelings from there. Indeed we are learning much more about reality nowadays with the likes of ‘entanglement theory’. I can believe not everything relating to a humans existence is located in the brain. Am I still an ok person? The same or better or worse? Perhaps my experiences through this ordeal have changed my outlook in general, after all a man knows the things in life by experience. Am I equipped to process all experiences after coma? I can’t help to relate all this to computers having worked with them for so many years, have I lost a little RAM? Certainly my hard drive is a little damaged. Much of my data sensors still work, eyes and ears etc, maybe a little worse too. Medicine suggests we can reroute the brain, the organ can adapt to changes, I don’t know how doctors measure this ability. Through trial and error I suspect by the many coma and stroke victims that have gone before. I am no doctor but always try to recover, often consider it and the best approach to all actions. This is merely a record of my attempt and what I think has worked for me. I sometimes look for approaches to recovery online, with anything at my disposal and enquire from doctors whenever I interact with them. It seems the brain hasn’t forgotten it’s disfunction, my ear problems Tinnitus and Meniere’s disease have returned a little among other things I previously had. They were both terrible before coma and I haven’t really had them just a little about 2 years after coma, my hearing and blocked ears bother me now but I’m often addressing it. Maybe the human brain does resemble a computer and I’ve been rebooted loosing my RAM at the time of reboot. Anyway the long and the short of this post is that we must use the brain to evaluate everything we do to rebuild it correctly. Pay attention to all actions, with every step and emotion. By my experience it is only by doing this that we improve towards normality whatever that is, what is truly normal for humans? We have defined it through law and politics. Maybe we should become like Trump. My friend was advised to focus on heel toe after a leg injury, perhaps it’s something we all must be aware of, not just coma victims, something the brain must rehearse to make a habit.
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.
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.
Dear fellow coma victims.
If you can read and understand these words you have retained basic mental functions and can work on other defects. Some coma victims can’t see. Similarly my most significant defect was the brains communication with body parts. I also experienced significant memory loss. I was told by doctors that the brain is rebuilding. They say coma and stroke are similar conditions, brain death.
I think coma victims should always be aware the brain is rebuilding and creating new pathways if your MRI scans reveal brain damage. They should practice repetition to help build the new pathways. I think a reason I can walk today is because I often do it mentally, and I turn my ankle, heel then toe. I could never balance on my bad leg despite daily attempts. I still can’t confidently do that but it’s much better. The things I once attempted daily I can now do badly. Improvement.
And a memory! I remember when I was maybe 2 months out of hospital walking about 1 km to the train station to travel on public transport to visit my twin brother. Everyone thought I shouldn’t do this. It was a trip that might normally take 1.5 hours which took me more than 3. While doing this I actively focussed on the mental sensations while walking. During this period my family would have accepted for me to be institutionalised. We even looked at such places. Then she came from Singapore to check on my progress. I went back with her to the country I had lived for about 10 years, we got married.
You might say that my improvement was a consequence of time but I think not, one must try to be themselves again, we are not merely an expression of time. Normality doesn’t happen naturally for coma victims, we must mentally construct what is normal to become it.
An indirect memory, I am told when in hospital I always thought I was at the airport about to catch a flight. I couldn’t speak well, or with logic, organise my ideas. Now I know where I am and what happened yesterday. I have done daily exercises for my memory, questions like what did I eat last night for dinner. My main advice to coma victims is to keep pushing yourself and not to shy away from things because people don’t think you should do that. We must rebuild our brains after coma. Indeed coma is a subtle condition unlike obvious physical damage, for example a broken leg. You can’t see a broken brain.
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.