SC: You had an experience with a woman who was temporarily rendered brain dead, but later could reiterate entire conversations that were conducted during her surgery, which according to science is impossible. Did that change the way you deal with patients who are theoretically “under” or in comas?
AH: Absolutely, in a whole bunch of ways. One, I put signs up on the outside of my door on my operating room “Patient is awake” because people would walk in and say the dumbest things. If I put the sign on the door, everybody is going to be careful about what they say. Some people would walk in, go up to the scans and look at them, and say “Oh my God, that looks terrible.” That was the first thing.
I was much more conscious of speaking aloud to the patient telling them we were at a tough part, but I think we are making the right decision and I’m praying that everything is going our way. It just made me really conscious about the fact that what we assume is unconsciousness is not. I don’t know what the patient might overhear or might not. I tell families, always speak about how much you love them, say that you are here, and tell them that you are praying for them. We don’t know how or what gets through.
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