Monday, April 6, 2009

FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 2009

(part 103) COMA AND BRAIN DAMAGE


I'd been in a coma for some 38 hours when I came to and found it nearly impossible to speak. My ability to think was impaired and the massive anxiety I felt was indescribable. I saw my mother's face looking down at me and heard her voice say how incredibly relieved she was. The specific reason for her genuine relief, I found out later, was because she'd been told by the doctors that I probably wouldn't come out of the coma and if I did I would be severely brain damaged as a result of the lack of oxygen to my brain for such a long time.

Then the hospital room came alive with various doctors and nurses all scrambling around my bed, turning off alarms and buzzers and reading data from various monitoring devices I was attached to. It seemed no one expected me to wake up, let alone be able to say anything coherent, after coming out of a coma. What I remember clearly, is how pissed off I was that I was still alive. I was crying and kept repeating, "why am I still alive?" The anger that was there when I first came out of the coma has never left or dissipated to the present day. To put it simply, I woke up pissed off and just stayed that way. This is not all that mysterious if you calculate that the brain begins to be damaged after 5 to 15 minutes without oxygen. I'd been without oxygen to the brain for ten to fifteen times that long, so the fact that I could even speak when I woke up was of some considerable interest to the staff at UCLA.

After the room cleared, I tried with great difficulty to talk to my mother. As the blurred vision began to clear slightly, I looked at the walls of my room and they appeared to be moving. It wasn't the kind of movement you'd see from dizziness or a hallucination, it was distinctly different than that. More like a million little wheels turning all at the same time, like it was alive. I tried as best I could to convey this phenomenon to my mother but putting the words together was extremely tedious. She was trying hard to get what I was saying but it was difficult for her, being that the trauma she had gone through was overwhelming as well.

At some point another patient was moved into the room next to mine and there was considerable commotion out in the hall while getting this accomplished. She couldn't see anything, but my mother wondered what all the disturbance had been about. I awkwardly told her that an unconscious blond girl had been put in the next room. She looked at me, appearing confused, and asked, "How do you know that?" I told her I could see it and again she looked confused saying, "well how could you see that, there's a wall there?" I can see through it," I said, "I can see her." My mother looked at me like I was nuts. "Really, I can see her, go look and see if that's what it is," I pleaded. My mother somewhat reluctantly went out of the room to find out what had happened and to see for herself what she could. When she came back, she had somewhat of an amazed look on her face stating, "That's exactly what it was, a blond girl, who's in a coma like you were, was moved into the room next to this one by the staff." "I told you I could see it," I groaned, "I told you that's what it was."

I was found hours after I'd taken the overdose by a woman named Carol Paulus, whom I had known since 1966. She'd been aware of my mood and knew, too, that I had talked about and acted upon suicidal thoughts and feelings in the past. For years she had watched me go up and down in my life depending on what was going right or wrong. On the particular day that I committed suicide, she had, for whatever reason tried to contact me without success. Acting on a feeling, she later said, she went to Gavin's house to see if I was ok. Coincidently she had found the door to the house unlocked and gone inside where she discovered me unconscious.

After calling paramedics, she rode in the back of the ambulance en route to the hospital. Along the way the driver turned off the siren and lights and slowed to the speed of traffic. Alarmed, Carol asked him what he was doing and he responded, "He's arrested." Not knowing for sure what this meant Carol asked him, "What does that mean?" He answered saying, "He's arrested, he's dead."

This is Carol Paulus's version of what happened next. "I felt a power come over me that said, he's not dead," which she reacted to by yelling orders at the driver and assistant, who both followed without question. "You turn on the siren and lights and go to UCLA." She then turned to the assistant and said, "And you, punch him in the chest or whatever you do and keep doing it until we get to the hospital," which he did without question.

When they arrived at UCLA emergency I was found to have the most minimal brain wave possible, and still measure, and was admitted imediately.

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