Friday, January 16, 2009
(part 115) CAROL, COMA, AND BRAIN DAMAGE
Carol Paulus and me
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, other than the obvious, 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.
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? I don't want to be here." The anger I felt 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 times that long, so the fact that I could do anything 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 my 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 an 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 my best 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, because the trauma she had gone through was so overwhelming.
At one point, another patient was moved into the room next to mine, and there was a considerable commotion out in the hall. We couldn't see anything, but my mother wondered what the disturbance had been about. I tried to tell her an unconscious girl had been put in the next room.
My mother looked at me, and appeared confused. "How do you know that?" she asked, "I can see it, I said, 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. It's a blond girl"
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.
"That's exactly what it was," she said, "A blond girl, who's in a coma like you were. They put her in the room next to this one." "I told you I could see it," I groaned, "I told you that's what it was."
* * *
I had been found at the house on St. Ives Drive by a woman named Carol Paulus a couple of hours after I'd taken the overdose. I'd known Carol since 1966, and had lived with her at different times since then. 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 had gone inside where she discovered me unconscious.
After calling the paramedics, she rode in the back of the ambulance with me 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 that meant Carol asked him, "What does that mean?" He answered, "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.