Remember, Ray Bradbury has a story called "Doll", the hero of which, after a coma, gains the ability to fly? Of course, this is a fantasy fiction, but the idea itself is not so far from the truth. After all, coma is one of the most mysterious human conditions.
The state of coma is traditionally considered to be something intermediate between life and death: the patient's brain ceases to respond to external stimuli, consciousness fades away, only the simplest reflexes remain … Doctors usually advise relatives of a comatose to either wait for him to wake up on his own, or, if such a state lasts a long time, disconnect it from the life support system.
For a long time, doctors were sure that in the comatose phase, the patient's brain was asleep, and he was not able to realize what was happening around. Although there are many known cases when, coming out of a coma, a person said that he heard and realized everything that was happening, but he could not react to it.
British neurosurgeons managed to prove that people in a state of coma do not turn into "vegetables" at all - they are able to think and even react to words addressed to them.
So, in 2000, the Canadian Scott Routley had an accident, after which he fell into a coma. Despite the condition, the patient was able to open his eyes, move his fingers and distinguish between day and night. Professor Adrian Owen from the University of Cambridge became interested in this case, who, together with his colleagues, developed a special technique that allows you to "read" the thoughts of people in a coma. After scanning Scott's brain, the researchers asked him a series of questions, which were supposed to be either positive or negative. At the same time, the tomograph recorded any manifestations of brain activity. Scientists have concluded that Scott is aware of who he is and where he is, and reacts to external stimuli. In particular, he "replied" that he did not feel pain.
Later, a group of scientists examined a 23-year-old girl whose brain was damaged after a car accident. The patient could neither move nor speak. When the researchers asked the girl to pretend she was playing tennis, the scan revealed a surge of activity in the parts of the brain that are responsible for motor functions. The same was observed when scanning the brains of healthy volunteers who took part in the experiment. According to Dr. Owen, these results prove that the patient is able to at least hear the speech addressed to her and mentally respond to it.
Thus, the answer to the question of whether it is permissible to euthanize people who have been in a state of coma for a long time becomes even more controversial.
A number of experts advise to "communicate" more with a patient in a coma, talk to him, tell some stories - they say, this allows the comatose to keep in touch with real life and increases the chances of getting him out of a vegetative state.
Cases when a person comes out of a coma, contrary to the forecasts of doctors, are not at all uncommon. So, a resident of the British town of Weston-super-Mare, which is 30 km west of Bristol, managed to bring his wife out of a coma … with the help of abuse!
Yvonne Sullivan suffered a failed birth. The child died, and she herself received a serious blood poisoning. Upon learning of the death of the baby, the woman fell into an unconscious state and did not leave it for two weeks. Finally, the doctors suggested disconnecting her from the life support system. Hearing about this, the husband of Yvonne Dom was so angry that he grabbed the unconscious wife by the hand and began to shout at her, reproaching her for not wanting to come to her senses. Two hours later, Yvonne suddenly began to breathe on her own, and after another five days, her mind returned. According to the doctors, it was precisely the "whipping" given by her husband that helped.
Three-year-old Alice Lawson from the English city of Scunthorpe today looks like a completely healthy and cheerful child. Who would have believed that two years ago she was practically a "plant", and doctors were going to kill a hopeless patient in order to transplant organs to a donor? However, at the last moment, a miracle happened, and the girl came out of a coma.
At the age of one, Alice suffered from meningitis and a stroke with renal failure. She could not breathe on her own, life in her was supported only by equipment. In March 2010, the parents decided to turn off the ventilator and signed a permit to harvest their daughter's organs for further transplantation.
The night before, the Lawson couple had spent the whole night at their daughter's crib. Alice's mother Jennifer brought her balloons, which the girl adored when she was healthy. She talked with her daughter, said how all her relatives love her.
The next morning, Alice was injected with morphine and disconnected from the apparatus. Jennifer took her in his arms and kissed her. A team of transplantologists was already waiting in the next room. Suddenly, doctors noticed that the girl … was breathing on her own. She was alive!
Of course, the child did not recover immediately and completely. For a while, Alice's reactions were at the level of a baby, she could not even hold her head. In addition, one leg remained shorter than the other, but this can be corrected with the help of an operation.
Now the girl goes to a correctional kindergarten. She paints and rides a bike that was redesigned especially for her. Relatives hope that over time, Alice will recover and catch up with the development of her peers.
New personality in the same body
Meanwhile, sometimes with patients who have experienced a coma, things happen that are difficult to explain in a rational way. So, having received a head injury. 35-year-old Englishwoman Heather Howland from an exemplary wife and mother suddenly turned into a sexually obsessed lady.
The misfortune happened in May 2005. Heather suffered several cerebral hemorrhages and spent 10 days in a coma. When Heather was discharged from the hospital, her husband Andy took leave to care for his wife. At first he did not notice anything strange. Three months later, Heather left the house for the first time. She was heading to the store. However, Andy, watching his wife from the window, was amazed to see that she approached the house opposite and spoke to a worker who was doing repairs in the absence of the owners. Then they both went up to the terrace and closed the door behind them. Through the glass it was visible that a man and a woman were kissing …
Since then, Andy's life has turned into a complete nightmare. Heather does not miss a single man. It is worth leaving her alone, as she heads to a bar for singles and meets there with seekers of sexual adventures. From time to time, acquaintances call Andy at work and ask him to urgently come and pick up his wife, who behaves inappropriately, molesting unfamiliar men.
Doctors believe that a head injury has led to irritation of the brain centers responsible for sexuality. They prescribed the woman a special course of drugs that suppress sex drive.
Heather herself would like to make a difference. She voluntarily agreed not to leave the house during her treatment. The lady says that since her recovery, she has had more than 50 sexual partners. “I woke up in the hospital with an incredible need to have sex all the time,” she says, “and it doesn't matter with whom. I don't recognize myself. After all, I'm not one of those who meet men on the street and invite them home to have sex."
Not so long ago, the media spread information about the six-year-old California resident Zoe Bernstein. After a car accident, the baby spent about a month in a coma, and when she woke up, her relatives did not recognize her.
“She has become a completely different person. - says the girl's mother. - Zoe developed the so-called attention deficit disorder. An exemplary child has turned into a little bully. Although, maybe this is not so bad - after the accident, she began to look more like her peers. On the other hand, this is a completely different girl, and the one, the former Zoe, who was before the accident, most likely, will never return."
Several years ago, a 13-year-old Croatian woman fell into a coma for 24 hours after a car accident. When the girl woke up, it turned out that she spoke German fluently. Prior to that, she studied German at school, but she did not notice much success. But the girl completely forgot her native Croatian after a coma!
And twenty-six-year-old Briton Chris Birch fell into a coma after being hit hard during rugby training. “When I woke up, I realized very quickly that my orientation had changed,” Chris recalls. "I became gay and took it for granted."
According to psychiatrist Miho Milas, such cases are known to science. Perhaps the secret lies in the suddenly awakened genetic memory. But what if, after a coma, a completely different human personality can settle in us?