|This was taken as I was being transported to All Saints Healthcare, five days before my awakening.|
In my post about this, The view from the other side of the bed, I expressed regret that I had caused them emotional distress when I wrote about the potentially one in five patients with disorders of consciousness who are covertly aware. I vowed to be more sensitive in the future to the family members who have faced this impossibly painful position.
Though my consciousness, so to speak, had been raised, the truth of the matter is that I still feel my greater obligation is to the covertly aware patients who can't speak for themselves. This issue is becoming more pressing by the day as methods of bedside covert cognition detection inch closer to reality.
One story I recently learned of, however, left me feeling heartened that not every loved one of comatose patients was pained by reading my account. Indeed, some may have felt consoled, like the sister of a Facebook friend who had been forwarded my post for the Secular Spectrum, "Please Put a Blanket on Me"--I Was Aware in My Coma. She was confronted with the same heartrending situation with her mother as the other daughter, in which she was also forced to disconnect her parent from a ventilator due to a DNR. But instead of wrestling again with her painful decision, she felt comforted by the information I gave about covert cognition and specifically my own experience.
While I was in the coma, Keith set up a pillow speaker so he could play my favorite music for me. He wanted to keep my mind engaged even when no one was there to do it for me. The music, like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and documentaries, seeped into my coma-dreams. I had wondered why I was able to "daydream" the music in such perfect detail.
As it turned out, my friend's sister had played soothing music for their mother as she lay in her coma. Knowing that it was possible that her mother could hear it gave her considerable solace. It's heartening to know that in relaying my story, I'm not hurting every loved one who has been placed in a situation that no one ever wants to face.
The fact is that there is no way to know if her mother was among the one in five covertly aware patients. The odds are against it, but does it really matter? Few sign a DNR unless there's a good reason for it. But if her mother did indeed have an island of awareness left, she went out surrounded by loved ones, listening to peaceful music as she drifted off for the last time.
Could any of us hope for anything more?