It features in plenty of stories on the big and small screen; a character falls into a coma for years. When they wake up, everything has changed.
So Reddit user Lumj asked "If you woke up in a hospital bed one day and a doctor told you that you had been in a coma for 20 years, what is the first question you would ask?"
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Honestly I'd probably ask where my dad was. If I was alive on life support for 20 years, I assume he would have been paying the bills. He'd be an old man by then. I've no idea if my girlfriend would still be there. She loves me, but she also wants to be a mother more than anything, and she'd probably stop waiting after 5-10 years, which I would not blame her for. But I know my dad would keep me alive until the day he dies, no matter the cost.
Goddamn I love my dad.
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Just one more minute. I can feel the sunlight trying to penetrate my closed eyelids. I must have overslept. The bed feels like a cocoon, wrapping its warm sheets around me, burying me in warm, fuzzy darkness. I'll get up. Just one more minute.
Strange. With every passing moment my sleepy mind reluctantly notices something strange. How the sheets feel thin and stiff, not like my sheets at all. How my body aches when I move. How my throat burns, dry as a desert. And that noise. A steady, pulsing beep, knocking at my minds door, like a Jehovah's witness, refusing to be ignored.
I open my eyes grudgingly and the bright room blinds me. I shield my eyes and try to retreat into my cocoon of sleep, but it's too late. I'm already awake and there is no turning back now, so I open my eyes again. The room looks cold, impersonal, with its light green walls and its white, clean furniture. Everything is clean. Too clean. And too cold. Everything looks like it has been abandoned, like nobody has been here for ages.
There are machines all around me. They are just as clean and impersonal as the rest of the room, but atleast they show signs of life. Numbers running across a screen, a line jolting up and down and that beeping, that beeping that just won't stop.
I try to get up, but my limbs won't obey, so I just sag back into bed. Why am I here? My brain is sluggish and slow, but I can see this is a hospital. I'm not hurt, just tired, so why am I here? I just need to sleep.
A man enters the room with hurried steps, striding straight towards me. He has a clipboard in one hand and a concerned, yet hopeful look on his face.
"You're awake! Welcome back, Mr. Andersen, you've been in a coma for a very long time." Coma? No. I was just... No.
"Water, please." I manage to croak out through a sore throat, my voice sounding twisted and cracked. The man in the white coat nods obediently and pours me a glass of water from the sink behind him.
"Small sips." I stretch out a hand to grab the glass, but I drop it in shock when I see my own hand. Wrinkled and grey flesh hang from the weak limb, dangling weakly from the bones in my arms.
"Mirror. Bring me a mirror." The glass lay shattered on the floor, forgotten, like the thirst and the pain and everything else. Nothing else was important. The doctor simply nodded and left the room without another word, leaving me alone to my thoughts.
Could it be true? Could I have been in a coma? Think. Why is it so hard to remember? Blury shapes from long ago dance across my vision, muttering scattered words, not making any sense. I try to make sense of the vague forms and sounds, but it seems an impossible task.
The doctor steps back into the room no more than a couple of minutes later, handing me a small, plastic mirror without a word, snapping me out of my thoughts. My hands tremble as I reach out for it and I have to take a moment to breath before I look.
The face staring back at me doesn't feel like mine, yet when I blink, it blinks. When I brush a hand across a cheek lined with age, the man in the mirror does the same. It doesn't even look like me. Slightly similar maybe, but not me. Some forgotten uncle or a cousin, perhaps, but not me.
"How long?" The man takes a deep breathe, as if he was preparing to dive into ice cold water.
"Twenty years." I repeat. "Twenty years..." I stare blankly into the wall. Twenty years is a long time. Long enough for everything to change. All the places and all the people, most of all myself.
"Who am I?"
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I'd probably ask for a shower and a razor. I can't imagine they would keep me that clean.
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They do clean you well. I was in a coma for a month and was shaved and washed often. Once I woke up I lost a great deal of muscle mass and was unable to clean myself and was still taken care of by staff. It was much appreciated and humbling.
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"You know, most test subjects come out of stasis horribly malnourished. Congratulations on beating the odds and somehow managing to pack on a few pounds."
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"According to my chart you've actually gained a pound. We're not even sure how that's possible. Your daughter is in the waiting room. Your husband, however, is in a coma. How do you think we woke you up?"
And then you wake up drenched in sweat and realize that it was all a nightmare.
Just out of interest, if someone were to kill somebody in an accident and charged with manslaughter, but ended up in a coma, would the coma count as time served?
Do Japanese robotic girlfriends exist yet? How much?
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Honestly, probably not much. Brain tissue deteriorates after long periods of minimal use, which can lead to severe cognitive impairments. Being in a coma is not like being asleep for a long time, where REM phase sleep shows similar neurological activation to being wide awake. The brain often shows reduced electrical activity, which translates to regions atrophying ovr a long period of under-activation. I know of only one case of a person waking up after being in a coma for 15-20 years, and he awoke with severe cognitive impairments. So, honestly, if I did wake up, I would just hope that I had enough of my cognitive processes working correctly to ask where my wife was, and if she was ok.
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