Posted on July 21, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Mike

Comatose Emergence: Mike Part Nine

The conception of comatose emergence is that one moment you are out, the next you are talking, fully alert.  While occasionally comatose emergence is  like that, most of the time its ending is marked by the beginning of volitional movement, response. His wife describes Mike’s comatose emergence:

“He winked and gave a thumbs up.”

That day – actually, we had Mike’s birthday in the hospital, it was September 6.   My daughter, our daughter baked a cake, pistachio torte, and our two grandsons came and my son-in-law.  I said to her that day ‘today is the day your dad was born when he came alive, he’s going to  come alive today, so today is what we’re hoping for.  Today’s his birthday so he can come alive one more time on this day and get a second chance.’

Well, we had his birthday and he didn’t wake up, but that was okay.  So on the eighth day my daughter and my two grandsons were there and they went in to see Mike, and my son-in-law comes running out to the waiting room and he says Mary I think Mike is waking up, and I barreled out of there and I ran in there and my grandson, who is 4 at this time, is Mike’s best buddy.  He comes and spends lots of time and they used to go on the tractor and the four-wheeler, and I knew if anybody could wake him up it was his bestest buddy, and all of a sudden Joe went like this.

He winked and gave the thumbs up, and I knew if he did something like that he was going to  be pretty much okay because that’s something normal that people do and it was normal for him to do that.

Was he able to speak upon his comatose emergence?

No.  He didn’t speak.  I’m not for sure how long.  It was a while.  It was quite a few weeks, I would say probably about a month, and it was very frustrating because I couldn’t understand him and I know he wanted to try to talk and I couldn’t understand him, and it just made me so mad because I just wanted to know what he wanted or was saying.

He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t sit up, he didn’t eat.  There wasn’t anything that he could actually do besides lay in the bed.  He could still move that right arm and leg, but that’s as far as it went.

So his comatose emergence  started with the volutional act thumbs up.

And a wink.

Did the doctors and the nurses accept that he was in comatose emergence when he did that?

Yeah.  I ran out there and I said my husband, he’s awake, he’s awake.  And then they told me they had taken him off all of his medication about 20 minutes before that or something like that, that they had taken him off all his medication and I didn’t know, I didn’t know that, you know?

But they all along from Day 1 that he was in a coma, they said he still can wake up on his own.  Even though he’s on medication or whatever, he’s still more than able to wake up.

Throughout the days while he was in a coma one of his nurses that took very good care of him, I asked her one day, I said could you tell me how many people, you know, that are in a coma state don’t wake up.  And she said, she didn’t wanna answer me but she did, and she says more than a lot of people don’t wake up, and I’m like more than 50 percent like this do not wake up, and she’s like yes a lot more than 50 percent of these people do not wake up.

And then I thought oh no, don’t let that happen to him, don’t let him be one of them people that don’t wake up, but I just really wanted to know what she thought, you know, because I just needed to know, not that it changed anything the way I felt or anything.  I still knew he was going to  wake up even though she told me that.  I just wanted to be prepared in my mind.

Comatose Emergence in the First Couple of Weeks

The actual prognosis for someone for comatose emergence in  less than two weeks is is higher than what the nurse said.  One explanation for her sense of the prognosis is that many do have comatose emergence after transfer from the initial trauma center.  See   A firm belief in comatose emergence during the first month of coma is not just blind faith, but a reasonable expectation.  So wait, hope and believe.

Did anybody tell you, you were right regarding his comatose emergence?


Believing, having the surgeries, comatose emergence,  to keep fighting.

My kids.  My kids and a few people said: ‘ everybody needs a second chance.’ I never thought about anybody ever having to tell anybody to give somebody a second chance, but Mike deserved a second chance.

And I never even thought about it.  I just wanted him fixed and I think, I don’t know if I think too much of doctors that they can fix anything and I realize this was bad.  And actually the doctor wanted me to look at his brain scan and show me how bad it was before they did surgery, and I said absolutely not, I do not need to see it and I don’t want to see it and I’m not going to look at it.  He tried to tell me, you know, even looking at it I think he thought he was going to  change my mind, but he wasn’t.

Did anybody ever say he’s doing a little better than we thought he might?

I did get the doctor to say after the first week when we talked about putting the feeding tube in he says you know what if you had asked me three days ago I would have told you this man would not be here.  And I asked him about – actually, they had to take out probably a hand size full of brain.  The doctor told me he had to take that out because it was damaged and it was no good.

Where was that?

That was on the right side of his head, and they said that it would probably operate the left side of his body and it probably wasn’t going to  be very good.  And I said you did what you had to do and that’s all I asked you to do.  It was okay.  I was okay with that, what he did because I knew what he did what he had to do, so I was okay with whatever I ended up with.

That would be right above the ear?  Did they tell you if it was parietal lobe or frontal lobe?

The frontal lobe.

Next in Part Ten –  Physical Injuries Come with Severe 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