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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Olivier

Waking up from a long coma

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

I have watched movies about people waking from a coma. They opened their eyes and the fog cleared. It’s nothing like that. Waking up from a coma is not a singular event. It is a process of waking up for a few minutes, fighting your way out and into consciousness, and then slipping back under. In the real world I was still in a deep coma, but the sedation was being slowly lifted. What I didn’t know was what had been going on in the real world. The world where my body lay, breathing through tubes and machines.

I didn’t know my mother had sat an almost constant vigil at my bed for three weeks. They had talked to me. Sang to me. Played me music. Brought video recordings of my children. Slapped me. Tickled my toes. They had washed me. Brushed my hair. Tried to talk some sense into me. They had put up a photo wall of people who love me. They had screamed at me. Read me books. They had talked and cried. I had been too far away to hear any of it. I had been in a coma for three weeks. What had happened to my body was severe. I had lost close to twenty kilograms. I was hooked up to a life support machine and one of the side effects of complete inactivity is oedema. This is roughly a swelling of all your extremities. I had compression machines moving the fluids out of my legs, but they were still swollen like fat sausages and I was hooked up to feeding tubes and machines. I became aware I was in a hospital. I knew there were machines and doctors. I knew I was somehow sick. I knew nothing else. Although I was somehow back near my body, I still had no idea I was in a coma. I was just a body in a hospital bed fighting for my life and moving in and out of my body. But now more awareness came, and there was a man with me. He was short – far smaller than me – and if I had to guess I would say he was about five foot tall. His hair was a long bob. The fashion magazines would call it dirty blonde with natural highlights. It hung down on either side of his face, tangled and knotted and unwashed. He was about 45, but he was gnarled and earthy. He looked as if he had come out of a forest a long time ago. He was neither male nor female, but I somehow knew he was a male. He was standing by my bed, and he took my hand. I knew this man was not a doctor. He felt of life, and of the earth. He looked at me directly. Deep into my eyes. This was strange because it felt as if it was the first time this had happened in a long time (and I was actually in a coma still). ‘Greetings, and welcome back,’ he said. Formal. Old-fashioned. His voice was gravelly and rough. ‘I am a healer, and your sister Jayne has sent me to you.’ Jayne. I knew that name. That was the first name I had heard I could relate to. I didn’t have to ask who she was. I knew I had a sister called Jayne. I knew her. It made sense that she had sent him to me. I trusted her. My brain was fried. I was moving in and out of my body, floating down hospital wards at times and moving back into the bed at others. I was deranged and dangerous. But I knew the truth on an instinctual level. I was a bit suspicious. He was not a calm, benevolent presence. He moved in a fast, jerky way. He didn’t have wings. His skin was a deep brown from sun and life. But what he had told me rang true. ‘Please help me get me out of here.’ At that stage I did not know I had a tube down my throat and could not have actually spoken. We didn’t need to speak. I knew what he was saying. He knew what I was thinking. He smiled. ‘You will. In time,’ he said. ‘All in good time. But not yet.’ So the Forest Man stayed with me.

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