It’s hard to describe the two months that followed. I only know now that’s how long the coma was. I have no conscious memories after getting in the ambulance, except briefly opening my eyes at the first hospital as I was being intubated. I saw the light and thought “stay away from that” and then went soundly back to sleep.
The dreams were more like nightmares, but they were my whole life. I had no idea I was laying in a hospital bed fighting for my life. The dreams were so vivid that I thought I was still living my life in a strange way. I was actually paralyzed, sedated and on extremely strong narcotics. It was a medically induced coma causing my confusion, but it was also increasing my chances of survival.
This coma allowed me to have weekly surgeries to correct contractures, harvest skin from donor sites on my lower torso and legs, place skin grafts, restore my face, etc. It also allowed me to survive the pain of daily necrotic tissue scrapings. The skin and tissue just continue to die after deep burns. The specialized nurses have to come in every day, scrape away that tissue and redress the wounds. That pain alone would have killed me. It’s known for being one of the most painful things a person can endure. And I was lucky. I slept.
I did, somehow, know when it was time for the scrapings. My only guess is that I could hear the nurses and knew what was coming.
In the darkness, I was 10 years younger and dressed in my favorite outfit that I wore as a Paralegal. Purple skirt with a checkered multi-purple button down. Any of y’all remember?
When I would realize it was time, I would walk down a staircase in pitch black darkness. At the bottom was a small square room where I would crouch down, wrap my arms around my knees, lower my head and accept the pain that I was still aware of even though I was in a coma.
My dreams were about trying to find my family. Where were they? Trying to find my house. I knew the address, but it didn’t look the same. Trying to find my brother (technically cousin) and his family. I could hear their voices, but they weren’t even in Georgia. I would look for them all day in my dreams and then run when it was time for the nurses to come scrape and bandage me for hours.
In my dreams, my daughter would lay beside me and hug me and give me pain medication and tell me it would all be done soon and that everything was okay. My son would agree, although I couldn’t see him and my husband watched from a chair in the corner. All in my dreams.
And that was the entirety of my existence for two months. When my soul was the only part of me that still worked the way it should.
That is the darkness.
If you ever experience it, and I hope you don’t, don’t be afraid.
It’s there to save you.