Story about those who sleep and those who fight to wake them up; Coma – the art of waiting. KASIA Kasia is a pretty girl. Usual pulse, good blood test results. Her skin is firm and blushing. Her hands are well groomed with manicured nails painted light pink. Fair hair worn in two plaits. Blue eyes - wide open but with no expression. Kasia looks as if she was engrossed in thoughts, as if she was falling asleep. Suddenly, all the people gathered around her hospital bed turn their heads towards a window – a typical reaction to an ambulance siren. Kasia with her head directed towards a wall hasn’t made any movement whatsoever. I can, however, see tiny sparks in her eyes. She must hear everything and she may even see. I can feel it, I know it – her mother assures. COMA There can be various reasons of going into a coma: accidents, brain hypoxia, haemorrhages, and tumours. The depth of a coma can be measured with the Glasgow scale. A fully conscious person gets 15 points while a person suffering from a serious coma who keeps eyes closed and does not react to any external stimuli – only 3 points. 16-year old Kasia, brought to a trauma ward four months ago, got 3 points. Her life came to a standstill in the second class of the secondary school just when she was preparing to a history contest. Her mother was so happy and proud of her daughter’s school results. She was adored by her friends. The mother saw her two weeks after the accident. She was afraid of what she was going to see. She didn’t have enough courage. It was too difficult for her to get over a shock. Now, she comes every day. She has quit her job. She believes that one day her daughter calls her “mother” again. BELIEF Life of most families whose relatives suffer from a coma turns into a constant waiting with no signals, no sparks, and no metaphysics. However, people in a coma know and feel more than it is assumed. Coma is one of the most mysterious states of a human consciousness. Families of people suffering from a coma always wait, are ready all the time, follow the rhythm given by the illness. They try to spend in hospital as much time as possible. It is even worth to come just for 10 minutes. It is important that somebody is present any time. It is necessary to talk. Anything. Just talk. “Never stop talking to a person in a coma. Talk about everything: about you, current events. Tell him what is going to happen when he wakes up. It encourages the person to fight. All the researches prove that a constant and regular contact of relatives is the best mean of increasing a chance of a sick person to wake up.” (according to web pages of a programme “Waiting”) Maciek’s father is humble. He blames nobody. He expects nobody to help him. His reaction to a tragedy cannot be classified according to any psychological scale. He was not given any time to feel sorrow, anger or to doubt just for a moment. He got up in the morning and knew that nothing was going to be the same any more. He decided to take his son home and now he can see an improvement. His son is calmer. He has even learnt to swallow which made it possible to switch off a probe and for Maciek to eat in a normal way. There is a nurse who helps Maciek’s father all the time. The father has at home several books on looking after a sick person. He exercises with his son for a few hours every day. He has to loosen up every small bone and to stretch every muscle of his son’s body. The room is very stuffy. You can’t open the window. Maciek is always cold as he doesn’t move and blood doesn’t circulate well enough to reach limbs. Maciek weighted about 20 kilograms when he was in hospital, now he weights more than 40. Maciek sometimes moves his lips. The father repeats aloud all his son says. It doesn’t really matter that nobody, but his father, can understand Maciek. This is their conversation. Hearing is said to be the last sense a person loses. It is highly probable that Maciek can hear. He happens to be in a good and bad mood, he suffers and thinks. He leads almost a normal life. The clock in Maciek’s room follows summer time. It was summer when the accident happened. WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THEY WAKE UP? Waking up from a coma can be compared to rolling a heavy stone up a steep slope. It requires much effort and persistence. The shorter you are in a coma, the easier it is to wake up and the more effective rehabilitation is. In the past, 90% of people suffering from a coma died; now, 90% can be cured. Doctors gave up on 46-year old Bogdan Krzepkowski from Opatowo who had a serious car accident. He had been three months in a coma when doctors told his wife to let him die as treatment was just a waste of time and money. In Poznań, after doctors had analysed his case history, they couldn’t believe he was still alive and spread their arms helplessly. P rof. Talar, the manager of the rehabilitation clinic of the Independent Public Research Hospital of the Medical Academy in Bydgoszcz, decided to treat Bogdan, although the patient was in a horrible condition. His legs, arms and ribs were broken; his lung, diaphragm, and eyes damaged. Today, a year and a half after the accident, he can dress and eat by himself. He can even walk requiring only little help. He laughs, tells jokes. Professor Talar’s team managed to wake up more than one hundred people within just 5 years! 23-year old Radek fell down the stairs. He had been in a coma for nine months before he opened his eyes. 36-year old Ela, having undergone a brain tumour operation, had had no contact with the outside world for four months until a small kitten entered her hospital room through an open window and decided to settle down on her bed. 46-year old Iza who had a car accident can distinguish colours and drink from a bottle. Who is going to be next? You never know. What do they feel lying motionlessly? How much can they hear? What do they understand? When they wake up, they usually remember nothing.