Posted on November 14, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 4 of 17 in the series Rita

Emergence from Coma an Ambiguous State: Rita Part Four

Sometimes the signs of emergence from coma are so subtle that it is hard for even the family to keep the sequence clear. In Part Four we talk about Rita’s emergence from coma.

When they start to pull the drugs off at three weeks, is it right away that you start to her emergence from coma and see this eye fluttering?

Yeah, she starts opening her eyes.  Yeah.

Rita’s Emergence from Coma Begins

And is she responsive at first with her emergence from coma?

I want to make sure I got it right. I feel like she was communicating.  I did. In my mind she was.  I remember one time I got real close to her and I said, you know, I love you, and, and she blinked her eyes like three times, and it’s just, it was a surreal kind of thing.  You don’t know, but it seemed like, you know.  You want to think that, uh, she was communicating.

I’m trying to remember when she started moving.  Oh, there it is. Okay.  Yeah, I have it here. 

Okay, while we were off the camera, you pulled out your cheat sheet there and looked up the answer.  What did you, what did you find about her emergence from coma?

It was the first week of January, she looked, she opened her eyes and looked straight ahead.  And that same week she started moving her thumb on command.

Were you the only ones who believed that or were the medical people, the nurses and the doctors seeing it as well?

Oh, no.  They’re taking care of too many people.  We were the ones that were there doing, you know, everything.

Did they believe you?

You know what?  I don’t even know if I told them.  I don’t know if I told them.  I don’t think I did.  But they were pleased, but I got the feeling they were pleased with what she was doing.  She, she did start communicating.  Like I said, you know, you need to ask her something, she’d raise her thumb.  Her eyeballs started moving around the next week I have.

Yeah.  The second week of January.  So, like, five weeks after the accident.

What is the exact date of her emergence from coma do you have in your notes there?

January 13th:  “Eyes went center and left.”  Her accident was on the right side of her head, so it’s the left side that’s the problem.  So right now, she can’t move her left side of her body.  And that was basically all the doctors, the brain surgeon told us.  The left side is going to be a problem.  I remember him saying that.

And they took out a significant portion of her frontal lobe?

Not a significant portion.  I don’t really know.

They took out something?

On the right side.  I don’t think it was all that much.

I don’t really know.  I am sorry.  I don’t know.  See, it’s during that time when you’re so traumatized you don’t really know.  I do have all the hospital records.  I could go back and look at them, I guess.

The doctors are only giving you incomplete information.  Did you get to talk to the neurosurgeon?

Yes.  I did.  He was always seemed very pleased with what was going on.  I mean, it wasn’t like a lot of information.  Again, you really don’t even know what to ask because you’re, you know.  I didn’t even think about what.  I just, all he said was a part, I have to remove a part of her brain.  That’s what he said; a part of her brain.  I don’t know what part.  “It’s so badly damaged, she’s not going to miss it.”  So I have looked at the medical records, and it’s very technical.  But, you know, it’s hard to understand.  So I’m sure the answer is in there.

Did they show you the CT scans?

No.  I never saw it.  I know she had one.  She would get a CT scan and we’d never hear the results.  They would never say anything, so we just thought well, I guess no news is good news, you know.

During that first week  the CT scans were probably getting worse.  The first week you said the swelling was getting worse?


And that’s why they decided they had to surgery?

Right. Well, they had that monitor, intracranial pressure monitor.  Yeah.

They had put that in right away?

Oh, yeah.  Mm hmm.

Now, you say by January 13th she’s following eye movements to begin her emergence from coma?


When’s the next significant change with her emergence from coma?

Well, she was in the NICU, four weeks.  So then she went to the ICU.  She was in there for another month.

Where did they take her from there?

Then she went to a room on the fifth floor at Bayfront Hospital.

Do you have written down when she went to the fifth floor?

Oh, yeah.  Uh, it was, um – okay.  See, I’m wrong.  It’s a good thing I have notes.  Room 551 was January 20th, so that was only like six weeks after her accident she came out of the ICU. So she was only in the ICU for about a week then.  Yea, I have it right here.

Next in Part Five – Five Months of Waiting for Care After Catastrophic Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447