Can those in a coma hear us?
It’s the pivotal question that launched BLUFF. Not a revolutionary or new question, but one that persists and is debated in the medical community, for one, and the world at large.
In doing the research for BLUFF, I spoke to many physicians and caregivers, and my straw poll indicates the group was evenly divided. While most doctors acquiesce that they don’t rightly know, their druthers list toward the “no, not likely.”
While my mother wasn’t in a coma, technically, she was in a deep, morphine sleep toward the end of her life, thanks to a losing battle with bone cancer. She drifted in and out of long periods of consciousness, and it had me wondering, perhaps obsessively so, about what exactly she was aware of. Her primary care doctors were sensitive about not talking about her condition in front of her, even when she was snoring. I appreciate this more than they will ever know. There was a level of respect that I bow to.
After I wrote BLUFF, an in-law of mine was admitted to the hospital and kept in a medical coma for a month. When I asked him about it later, he wasn’t comfortable discussing it, other than to say, “I don’t remember a thing.”
Others who have come out of comas have had similar responses. But they are not the norm. Actually, there are those documented cases of coma patients who do remember, and can even recall the offhand words of a careless doctor or insensitive nurse telling loved ones that they’ll never come out of it. Those cases are what keep the right to life movement fueled, especially in desperate cases where there is no hope. Oddly, however, there are no numbers to prove the case either way.
By creating this dilemma for my protagonist, I wanted to push the envelope and explore not just the idea that a comatose patient could hear, but much more. I wanted to know what it might be like to be trapped in one’s body, with no visible means of communication. And not just be trapped, but forced to face the decisions you’ve made and live with those outcomes while not being able to defend or explain yourself. My protagonist, Jude Black, finds herself in that position. And as she lies there, immobile, some strange things happen. One of them is that she actually finds herself communicating and developing a friendship with someone she loathed in her waking life.
As with most of my writing, this unusual outcome underscores something much larger and pervasive—a human frailty—basically, our tendency to judge one another. When everything is stripped away—social setting, class-consciousness, petty differences, toxic gossip—sometimes that’s enough to truly see someone. And find a commonality that can create a relationship, a bond. I played with this theme in the book, and I think you will agree that the unlikely friendship that transpires between Jude and Mary Shannon is not just poignant; it’s heartfelt and true.
To be certain, the question about just what someone in a coma can experience won’t be answered definitively by BLUFF or by me, that is unless I find myself in a hospital bed one day in a persistent vegetative state. And if that happens my friends, you can rest assured—I will get back to you about it.
Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books, especially her new novel, BLUFF, which you order here. She wants you to chew them in your teeth, savor them on your tongue, breathe them in, and feel her words in your skin. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She finds ecstasy in constructing a perfect sentence and responds willingly to the nagging ache in her heart to create an authentic experience for the reader. She is an award-winning author with the single goal of resonating with others.
Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, her catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, over 17 books published, a daily blog and weekly column, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues of the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. She has won many Society of Professional Journalist awards, the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer’s Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens 2003, and most recently, the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor for “Burnt Toast.,” her first anthology of her award winning humor columns. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, her writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message.
As a member of the world community, she is excited by the opportunities presented in today’s publishing climate having started her own publishing imprint in 2011 in order to release her anthologies and her upcoming debut novel, “BLUFF.” Check out her website at www.lenoreskomal.com.
Where to buy: