Na tak mruga raz | Dorota Salus

He blinks once for yes

I once watched a movie with De Niro about a man who wakes up from a coma. The story was based on facts and showed how patients, who had been in a coma for decades, under the influence of experimental therapy, came to life. Today, after talking with the characters of the text below, I know that coming back to life after many months of sleep is not like in the movies.

Michał’s mom found him in the bathtub on 2nd January. The plug was pulled out, so probably he had just finished showering. “Somehow, he snored so strangely, we wanted to wake him up, but it was not possible. At 112 they told us to open all the windows, although we could not smell anything in the air. It was then that I found out that carbon monoxide has no smell at all. Next, the ambulance came and they took Michał to hospital”, reports Michał’s sister. For three months there was no contact with Michał. He just lay on the bed with his eyes open. He was conscious but unaware, in a so-called vegetative state.

“Waking up from a coma does not look like the movies: it is not that a person suddenly opens his eyes, begins to talk, or even better, sits up in bed and behaves just like before. The fact that someone has woken up is hidden in details and small signs”, Alicja explains.

One of the first symptoms of Michał’s consciousness appeared just before the visit of the court expert approving the application for Michał’s incapacitation. His parents applied for it to be able to see their son’s medical records. “Michał, you know that when the judge comes, you will have to rise. Get ready, man”, joked a friend visiting Michał in hospital. In response, the bed shuddered. “He couldn’t make a voice or even smile, but his body was moving as if he was laughing inside. Over time, he began to roll his eyes more consciously. We agreed that he would blink once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’ ” recalls Michał’s sister.

This reportage was nominated in 2018 for the semi–finals of the Sensitive Festival – a festival of socially sensitive creativity, whose honorary jury includes, among others, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi and Mariusz Szczygieł.

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