Posted on September 7, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 7 of 24 in the series Nancy

Coma After Brain Surgery: Nancy Part Seven

Drug induced coma after brain surgery may be necessary to prevent further injury, especially because of the radical movement that can occur because of the agitation that is secondary to lower levels of consciousness.  With Nancy this was done at the time she was put in the ambulance to transport her to Madison. Drug induced coma’s may also be used to reduce brain swelling but such use is controversial.  In most cases of severe brain injury, when the drugs are discontinued, it may be days or weeks before the severe brain injury survivor come out of the coma after brain surgery. Such was not the case for Nancy:

Nancy was in a drug-induced coma after brain surgery for how long?

She was kept under for five days.  On the fifth morning they started weaning that medication off of her to see how she would come around.

Nancy Comes Out of Her Coma After Brain Surgery Quickly

Did she come out of her coma after brain surgery then?

Yes, she did.  She came around.  We were concerned maybe with her swallowing function at that time because it seemed liked there wasn’t any. She would pocket saliva and keep it in her mouth and she didn’t really talk, her eyes were swollen shut, she couldn’t see anything but she could hear us and she’d be tapping constantly when she came out of that medication.

Did the doctors feel that she was coming out of her coma after brain surgery or just showing some signs of awareness?

They said that they thought she was – the medication was gone and that she was conscious at that point.

Did she seem to be responding to questions when she came out of her coma after brain surgery?

Very simple ones.  One answer to everything and always, because like I said, she couldn’t see anything so she always wanted to be touching.  So we had all different stuff.  I was kind of like, that’s the only way I could occupy myself is to make sure that I had resources.

We had four different types of lotion with all different smells to them and we had fresh fruit and we had things that she could touch roughly, keys, cold like ice, soft like a fuzzy stuffed animal and just to keep senses going, to keep stimulating anything that she was able to do at that time.

So despite the fact that she had this skull injury, the coma after brain surgery wasn’t as severe.

Right, she supposedly never went into a coma, it was all drug, it was drug induced.  And her Apgar score, I don’t even remember what it was, I don’t, it was, if it was less than a 5, or I don’t even know how the scale goes anymore.  But, one nurse had told me that no prognosis is a good prognosis.  She says that she doesn’t like it when doctors give a prognosis because then it’s like oh, and that’s, with the brain injuries that’s usually the way it goes when they can tell.

After five days, they took her off the medication that kept her in a coma after brain surgery. Tell me about the next week.

Well, the fifth day in the ICU was a little scary because the swelling had been to such an extent with the brain and the left eye that they were afraid of retinal detachment.  The ophthalmologist who was in there trying to keep the cornea healthy and keep the eye well.  Her right eye was puffed and swollen shut.  Her left eye was swollen, pushing, protruding forward.

When you say retinal detachment, what are they worried about?

She probably had a quarter of an inch to spare before they thought it would tear.   They drew a picture on a dry erase board for me and showed how far the eye was (being pushed out) and this is how long your optic nerve is and the retina attaches here and there.  What they were afraid of was that if she swells any more that she probably, like I said, had a quarter of an inch leeway there and they were going to have to do emergency optic surgery.

Essentially the brain is swelling so much it’s pushing the eye so far out that the optic nerve has reached the end of its tether.

Right.  Right.  And, uh, the option was to remove the eye.  That was about the only thing they could do at that time.  And I said if she, well, you know, blindness in one eye, I’m thinking, heck that’s less than what I think of facing, so.

You were worried about something a lot worse than that when she went into surgery?

Right.  Right.  So I, I was worried more about how the brain was going to function versus, you know, it would be terrible to lose her eye but, you know, if we had to you just, you know, face that when it comes to it.

Are you a religious person?


Were you making some bargains with God at that point for her to come out of her coma after brain surgery?

Oh, no.  It was, uh, the oddest thing.  I had a huge calm come over me, it was a very weird feeling.  I mean not weird, but very relaxing, it was just like okay, we can do this.  Somebody had sent me a little prayer and inside the card it said God never gives you more than what you can handle.  And so I kind of remembered that and was like okay.

Next in Part Eight – Tenth Birthday While Still in Hospital Following 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