Widow Wednesday: Movies Lie

In real life, comas aren’t like they are in the movies. That may not be a surprise to you, but it was to me. I was shocked by so many things when Mark got sick and during his time in the hospital(s). Like his coma. They said he was in a coma, but I didn’t believe them for a few days because it didn’t look like comas look in the movies. I know. That’s stupid, right? To be surprised that reality wasn’t the same as it was portrayed in the movies or on television? Crazy! But I had nothing to compare it to, so I was confused and disbelieving.

I wasn’t there when Mark went into the coma. It was early in the morning, while we were getting up and getting ready to head to the hospital for our daily visit. I got the call to come up to the hospital right away as he had been choking and when I got there, he was in the coma. Coincidentally, as I was walking into the ICU for the first time to see what was going on, I heard the family of another patient being told that he was out of his coma. I thought, “Huh, that’s good.” I had no idea what an enormous moment that could be. Why? Because people come out of comas all the time in movies. And they look good when they do.

The first day of Mark’s coma was the last day we had any contact with him. The fact that he was tracking us with his eyes and squeezed our hands in response to questions and prompts probably didn’t help my impression of what a coma was. But the first day was it, there was no more reaction from him that we could tie to a prompt or question or anything in the environment. So he should be peaceful and still and quiet. Because that’s what comas are like in the movies. But he wasn’t. His eyes were open, his body twitched, and for a few days his body seemed to be fighting. He was combative. Which is not what a coma is supposed to look like, right?

At one point the doctors had to order restraints on his arms because he was jerking so much they were afraid he was going to pull out his IVs. Who has to have arm restraints when they’re in a coma? It turns out that quite a few people do.

Almost six years later and I still get mad when I see a coma in a movie. I almost always say, under my breath, “That is such a lie.” It’s possible I’m slightly pissed at movie comas. But check it out, smart scientists are too. Seriously, though, you should read that article. It’s got some good information and definitions and it proves I’m not a wackadoo for being mad at movies. A few months after Mark died, I remembered that patient who had come out of the coma the day Mark went into his. And I was truly amazed at the miracle that that man waking represented. But I was still mad.