Hello Reddit! One day in 2015 I woke up thinking it was time to go to work, but for some reason, found myself strapped to a bed in the hospital. When I met eyes with the attending nurse and asked if I could use the bathroom, she teared up and ran out of the room -- only to come back a few minutes later to apologize and explained that for the past six months I had been in a coma due to a very severe traumatic brain injury. The neurologist said if I did eventually wake up, I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. You can read the full story in great detail over at MEL Magazine, and be sure to visit the subreddit r/TBI, a community of support, awareness, and information about traumatic brain injuries.

I'm here to answer any questions you have about waking up from a coma, traumatic brain injuries, and any other questions you might have. AMA!

Edit: My sister, u/jenpennington is here and authorized to help me answer questions -- also my personal Reddit handle is u/JPenns767.

Edit II: A few people have asked about a GoFundMe for medical expenses, so here's a link to one if you'd like to contribute!

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/1gt6ujabuax81.jpg

Comments: 1346 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

f13452362 karma

Was your employer surprised when you finally showed up?

WeAreMEL2329 karma

I wouldn't say surprised. They have been great and have been with me every step of the way. I couldn't be luckier!

Swackhammer_2048 karma

What were some of the biggest surprises you learned about after being in a coma for a half year, whether it be in your personal life or going on in the news?

WeAreMEL4907 karma

My father comitting Suicide was the biggest shock. Everything else I carried the attitude that I'll deal with it. Losing my father was the toughest thing. Not the car, not my place, not my computer, but My Pops.

Swackhammer_1492 karma

omg I'm so sorry that's absolutely awful. I hope you and he had some memorable moments to cherish forever

WeAreMEL3106 karma

I do. I still celebrate his birthday and buy him a cake. My fat ass eats it, but I even serve his slice on his plate. My slice on mine.

WhichWayzUp389 karma

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your father, my dad did that to himself too, I know it hurts. Did your dad do that as a grief response to your plight? Or did he do it because he had his own issues going on?

WeAreMEL1094 karma

There were some other issues going on as well. My little sister was addicted to Meth at the time and wasn't paying the rent when my father as giving her the money to pay. It was going to the dope dealer. They were going to be evicted. Thinking about everything hew as going through, and being an old man at that time, I can see how the strongest man I ever knew took his own life. He was the only man that could.

GrouchyPuppy311 karma

Wow you have quite a story! My condolences. Tough for a dad to deal with two struggling offspring, one in a coma and one on drugs.

WeAreMEL772 karma

Yea and being in his 70s to boot. My sister did get clean and is doing really well now. She cried when I told her Dad would be proud.

Wuttalife1240 karma

What was the world event that happened while you were comatose that shocked you the most when you came to hear of it?

WeAreMEL3000 karma

I woke up out of Coma looking for my Father. I asked about him the first 3 weeks laying in a hospital bed. It was tough feeling like I upset him or he couldn't handle seeing me like that. My sister told me 4 weeks after waking up that our father had killed himself. He couldn't handle everything going on and took his own life.

That guilt followed me through out my recovery. I did feel guilty. I started back to school and Psychology was my major. I learned a bit more about suicide and it helped me finally forgive myself. Was there a reason to blame myself? No. Some drunk kid Driving his fathers BMW with no headlights wrecked into my buddy and I causing the Traumatic Brain Injury, but I couldn't shake that feeling for some time.

chill90ies710 karma

What happened to your buddy?

WeAreMEL1982 karma

He's doing really good now. He wasn't nearly as severely injured as I was. It was hell for him while I was in a Coma though. He felt guilty. It wasn't his fault, some drunk rich kid, but he still felt guilty,

dinodeanfd605 karma

What happened to the drunk kid?

WeAreMEL1552 karma

The kids, there were 4 high school kids driving, didn't get in much trouble. The Drunk Kid driving has to have a SR22 his first 5 years after getting his license and driving a car. It wasn't a whole hell of a lot of consequences they had to deal with. Considering everything I've been through and continue to deal with as a consequence of their actions. But they were kids. I did really dumb stuff as a kid myself.

Con_Johnson1073 karma

Did you really wake up craving pizza? What kind of pizza was it??

WeAreMEL1316 karma

It was a Supreme. And yea, I'm kind of addicted to the Pizza Pie!

AbbySquirrel333786 karma

I was in a medically-induced coma for a month when I was 11, I definitely get waking up with a craving, all I asked for as I struggled in the bed restraints was macaroni & cheese. How was your memory when you woke up? I spent years with friends and family helping me trigger memories and get my past back, I couldn't remember anything and had trouble remembering my parents when I woke. I also continued to have memory problems, how are you faring on that part? Do you have any struggle with short- or long-term memory?

WeAreMEL823 karma

My short term memory is horrible at times. Sometimes its decent, other times its very very bad. My long term memory didn't suffer as much. Thankfully! I woke up knowing who I was. Using the memory strategies I learned in Rehab most people, and sometimes even myself, don't realize I have memory problems.

dacalpha64 karma

Are there any memory strategies you'd be interested in sharing?

WeAreMEL27 karma

Ask Associate Alarm Cellphone Calendar Chunk Repeat Write Routine Record Summarize and visualize

PropaneUrethra750 karma

Is it true that when one wakes up from a coma, that they feel no time between entering and exiting the coma?

If so, what was it like to have had 6 months feel like seconds to you? If not, did you have coma fantasies

WeAreMEL1403 karma

When I first woke up it felt like the next day to me. I was getting up and going to get ready for work. I couldn't because they had my hands and legs tied to the hospital bed, but it felt like the next day to me initially. I started to remember more about being in the Semi Conscious state later on.

GrouchyPuppy620 karma

Did the drunk kid ever apologize to you? Did you ever meet him after/court?

WeAreMEL1139 karma

The Parents brought him to my hospital room after I woke up. He looked in through the netting they had on my bed. He couldn't really stand to look and didn't look long. He turned and ran out of the hospital room.

horsepighnghhh377 karma

Are you mad at him?

WeAreMEL1137 karma

I was. I was fucking furious for some time, pardon my language. But then I realized it was a kid. Not even old enough to drive. I did dumb stuff as a kid too. Never almost killed anyone, that I know of...

DigiMagic562 karma

What actually woke you up, if you know? Did some tissues heal, or the brain managed to reorganize itself somehow into functional state, or some medications?

WeAreMEL993 karma

I dont know, and the nurses and the Neurologist leading my care had no idea either. He asked me to sign a medical release so he could submit my medical files to the Board of Medicine for review. Because he had no idea how he was even able to ask me to do that. I shouldn't have been capable of responding.

iguessthiswilldo1216 karma

Wow. So there's a possibility of seeing your case in a medical journal someday?

WeAreMEL197 karma

Very possible, that was all part of the release I signed before the files were sent to the Board of Medicine

Jenpennington456 karma

He just woke up one day. I got a call from one of the nurses that he was awake and lucid. It was a total shock and extremely emotional.

NineDayOldDiarrhea205 karma

I’ve noticed you co-responding to a lot of the questions, are you a friend or relative of his?

WeAreMEL553 karma

She is my Sister. Helping a guy out and I appreciate it very much.

nightforday501 karma

Did you have morning breath to end all morning breath?

Real question: Did you have any noticeable personality changes that you're aware of after the accident?

Also, I'm so glad you awoke from your coma, and it sounds like you have a great and loving support system. That's awesome.

WeAreMEL673 karma

I had legendary morning breath. The nurses still get an occasional whiff out of no where.

Hannibal_Barca_449 karma

Do you feel well rested?

WeAreMEL763 karma

It depends. Some days it feels like I cant sleep enough, other days I'm full of energy and walking every where. And I work a couple days a week. Because I want to but the extra money has been a life saver. Social Security Disability isn't enough. It's just not. Inflation doesn't help.

I-Tell_Lies447 karma

What was the first drink you had after the awakening?

WeAreMEL911 karma

It was only water for the first couple weeks. The doctor finally cleared me to eat whole foods I had a Coca Cola and Love it as much as I did the first time I had a Coca Cola!

thatchileanguy410 karma

Do you remember anything that was said to you while you were in a coma? Did people talk to you hoping you were listening?

WeAreMEL816 karma

There was a period before I fully came to I was partially conscious. I remember nurses talking to me, they would play really loud music to try to help me come out of coma, I smacked a few nurses because I was tired of being bothered so early in the morning for shots. Haha! They didn't find it funny. Im a large strong man. They ended up trying my legs and feet to the bed so I couldn't hit or kick anyone.

thatchileanguy286 karma

Is it normal for a patient in a coma to move like that? To move or flail arms and legs around, kind of semiconsciouslly?

WeAreMEL323 karma

I cant really say if it is normal or not. I'm definitely not a Doctor. Being Semi Conscious coming out of a Coma is normal. Some people never make it past the semi conscious state.

kalirob99164 karma

Not the OP, but as someone who has been in a coma, it sounds normalish. (?)

And I was rather hostile after waking up, myself. I tried, and thankfully failed with my regular attempts to kill a nurse lol (who I was sure at the time was trying to kill me), it ended up she was trying to regularly give seizure medication but I was hallucinating and I wasn’t having it. I would hope I’m a rare occurrence.

Fortunately, I had little strength and I was easily held down. Though I tore the tubing out of my throat twice coming out and required extra restraints for a while they said.

WeAreMEL142 karma

I didnt try to kill anyone thankfully! I pulled out my Catheter to many times. One of the reasons they tied me down.

Milosmental352 karma

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and I hope your recovery is going well!

Do you remember anything from when you were comatose? Dreams, sounds, anything like that?

WeAreMEL806 karma

I don't. I woke up out of Coma thinking I had to go to work. After eventually realizing I was in a hospital I hit the Call Nurse button on the hospital bed. I told the guy I had to get ready for work, why was I tired down?! Had I killed someone?! The nurse that he sent to check on me was so shocked when we met eyes and I spoke to her she ran out of the room in tears.

Jetztinberlin189 karma

Why did she react that way? Was there just really no warning you were coming out of the coma?

Jenpennington524 karma

No the neurologist told us to prepare for him to always be in that confused semi conscious state. I'm not sure if the doctors just didn't want us to get our hopes up or if they truly didn't expect him to become fully conscious and live life as a normal adult. Either way, one thing I know for sure is, my brother is a fighter and he never gave up.

WeAreMEL130 karma

Your Damn Right...

WeAreMEL149 karma

There wasn't, not at that time. And I came out in a much better condition then I should have ever been able to be in even after rehab. That was the biggest reason the Neurologist submitted my files to the medical board. It shouldn't have been possible, or so I was told.

_Br0nze285 karma

Did you see any dreams while under coma? What did the passage of time feel like?

WeAreMEL561 karma

I didn't really have any dreams that I can remember. I may have but the TBI was so severe I don't remember them If I did. I was told I was lucky to remember parts of the Semi Conscious state I was in before i regained full Consciousness. It didn't feel like all that time had passed. I woke up going to work and wondering why I was tied down. I'm not that kind of Kinky.

nschoeny230 karma

What were some major world events that surprised you when you woke up?

WeAreMEL304 karma

Nothing really that I can remember as far as world events go. I was trying to process this new world and there was so much on my plate I wasn't paying attention to the rest of the world.

Bob_N_Frapples212 karma

How long after waking were you able to get out of bed?

WeAreMEL652 karma

I was stuck in that hospital bed for a month after waking up. They tried to help get me out but my legs were worthless and I ended up falling to the ground. Its why I'm proud I walk every where now. I wasn't supposed to be able to walk at all...

PointAggressive189 karma

My husband has a severe TBI. He gained his from a split rim wheel explosion, full force of the blast to the face. He wasn't fond of the restraints they used either. And the boxing gloves to keep him from ripping the wires out. We are 3 years out nearly.. What advice would you give to my husband?

WeAreMEL279 karma

It takes a long time for the brain to heal. The neurologist told me 10 years. My best advice I would give your husband is don't be to hard on yourself. Your going to fail sometimes. Sometimes your not. Just no matter what do not give up on yourself. I don't care what the medical professionals say. Do not give up! It may take longer but you can.

Jenpennington101 karma

To not be so hard on himself. It's normal for emotions and personality to be different and also he has to accept he will not be the same person he was prior to the TBI and that's ok.

WeAreMEL60 karma

So you say! =P

shit_master169 karma

How did it happen?

WeAreMEL442 karma

Kids were driving drunk with no headlights on. My buddy pulled out into the intersection and never seen them coming. they were doing an estimated 117mph in a residential area.

MissFog163 karma

What type of rehabilitation therapies did you have to take? Did you get psychological support? Was your body debilitated after the months in bed?

WeAreMEL275 karma

I went through 2 stages of rehab. First a rehab hospital then I went to the Nevada Community Enrichment Program for rehab from the TBI. I couldn't walk initially, I had to work really hard to learn to walk again. I did it though, and now I walk and take the bus every where.

Mars_Velo170186 karma

This may be a long shot, but you seem really familiar and if you were in the hospital in Northern Nevada around 2020 and remember sharing a room with a skinny guy with GI issues and your wife buying us burgers and staying up and BS-ing most of the night. I’d like to hope this is the Same John and say hi!

WeAreMEL13 karma

Sorry, wasn't in Northern Nevada and I've never, in my entire life, been labeled a skinny guy.

Alwayssunnyinarizona156 karma

Did you have any profound personality changes? You mentioned supreme pizza, did you only like pepperoni before, for example?

I'm reading a great book about neurology and brain injuries now - "The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons," well worth the read - Sam Kean is a great author.

E: also wanted to add that the husband of a good friend of mine is in a medically induced coma right now, following a TBI.

What advice would you give to people to help them work through being a caregiver for someone with a TBI?

WeAreMEL281 karma

I don't believe I have any personality changes with the exception of going through this whole experience and the emotional and phycological effects its had on me.

As far as being a caregiver goes, my biggest piece of advice is to do their best to not show aggravation. Understand it's going to require a lot of patience. And do not, in any way and I mean this, feel guilty about having a professional come in for caregiving. It's a legitimate job and I've heard horror stories about family trying to be caregivers. One of the benefits of hiring someone is they are trained medically to know when something needs to be seen by a doctor or not. Its really beneficial. If they are set on doing it learn first aid and see about taking a caregiver class. The more knowledge and knowing what they can expect will really help them out.

Q1go97 karma

Hi! I had a brain bleed/stroke in college, totally missed ~ a week or so, but wasn't in a coma, just not fully "with it". My parents flipped out when I asked for my phone tp text my friends good morning, I knew I was at the hospital and had brain surgery but thought it was like the next morning or something.

What was the most frustrating thing about recovery for you? The most gratifying to "get back"?

For me it was frustrating I couldn't remember anything for the events of that time I before I fully became "with it", I remember them putting me under bc the anesthesia burned in my iv but that's it, and I was worried I said something to my parents I didn't want shared with them. I didn't read for fun for over a year afterwards. I was an english major so I did what I had to for classes but nothing for pleasure.

WeAreMEL110 karma

The most frustrating things about rehab to me was being there. I wanted to work and get back to life but I hadn't graduated. So I was very serious learning everything I could so I could graduate after passing and get back to life.

Turns out I really did need everything I learned there. Im really fortunate I went to the Nevada Community Enrichment Program.

UsernamesAreRuthless74 karma

Have you thought of starting a GoFundMe to help pay your medical bills?

WeAreMEL229 karma

I did and I started a few. They went no where. My Lawyer did a great job getting everything paid though. I was relived when he told me it worked out. I didn't get rich, but If you considered how much I owed. I kinda did.

Xan_derous68 karma

When you woke up, did you have any weird body sensations? Like did you feel pins and needles in your limbs? Did you feel kind of heavy? Did you do that gasp and wake up thing or just simply open your eyes? I'm curious about the physiological processes and feelings from waking up after so long.

WeAreMEL122 karma

I have left side weakness due to the part of my brain that was injured. Physically my left side isn't as affected anymore but my peripheral vision in my left eye left side is practically no longer there. I can see lights occasionally, and If I focus really hard it can manage to see a bit more, but its mentally exhausting to do.

strawberrrychapstick59 karma

How has the TBI and coma had a lasting effect on your life as a whole? Are there things you can't do/miss doing?

WeAreMEL194 karma

The life I lived prior to my TBI is over. The man I was prior to no longer exists. That was the biggest of rehab for me personally, learning how to live with this disability. I miss playing First Person Shooters. I was a PC gamer and loved it. I played World of Warcraft for years as well. With my vision affected I don't do well playing First Person Shooters, and I'm not interested in any MMORPG anymore. That may change when I can afford to building another Gaming PC. But who knows how long it will be before I have the disposable income to build another Rig.

Funwithpeter45 karma


WeAreMEL161 karma

Not a whole lot. He was a 14 year old kid that wasn't suppose to be driving. And shouldn't have had been drinking when he was driving. I've heard his parents are Alcoholics though. They showed up to the hospital after the wreck very drunk themselves.

sidkhaniya43 karma

What’s one thing that you now appreciate having more than ever before?

WeAreMEL125 karma

Housing. Renting a room which is all I can manage currently, but having a place to live. My own space and a room that is mine. It means the world to me. If I'm lucky I'll eventually be able to buy a house of my own. Its really unlikely I'll ever be able to, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try like hell to get there.

SnoakIsAnEwok43 karma

Did you have a significant other when you got into the coma and if so how did the event impact your relationship?

WeAreMEL99 karma

I didn't. I was single, and thankfully so. I wouldn't want to put anyone into that kind of situation.

Ta-veren-39 karma

Not sure if it's been asked or not! Welcome back by the way!

Were you nervous about going back to sleep after waking up?

Also, how were the simpler things, that movie you wanted to see was already out, the game you couldn't wait to play sadly was delayed, that sort of thing. Not that you could be doing much of that in the hospital.

WeAreMEL24 karma

I never had that problem. Thankfully!

NSFAnythingAtAll36 karma

Did you sue the parents of the drunk rich kid? If not, why not?

Also, did you fully physically recover from your injuries?

WeAreMEL101 karma

I actually talked to my Lawyer about suing the Parents. He told me not to waste my time or money. He said they would be liable for millions, Lose, File Bankruptcy, Not have to pay me a peny.

adentalthrowaway32 karma

Hello! Glad you’re okay :) Do you remember the car accident at all???

WeAreMEL112 karma

I do now. It took some time and I don't remember it well because of how bad that accident was and the severity of my injuries. I do remember my buddy saying, "Oh Shit!!!". That's all. It bothered me for some time that I couldn't. Until I came to the realization that I'm better off not remembering that.

Mackheath130 karma

A lot of my questions have already been answered; is there any discomfort being in a car for you?

Also thanks for all the answers you've given and you sound like a wonderful person.

WeAreMEL30 karma

It depends on who is driving. Its never a prolonged fear, just when something out of the ordinary happens.

19co26 karma

Do you have any resentment towards the kid that hit you? Also just want to say that you’re a really lucky man and you’ve got a lot to be proud of! Thanks for doing this ama

WeAreMEL65 karma

I did at first. After time passed I realized they were kids. Youngsters. I place the blame on the parents.

GrizzlyBear7423 karma

I wonder how long it took to regain enough muscle mass again. I guess after 6 months walking to a toilet must be challenging for a while?

WeAreMEL28 karma

My legs were a no go initially. It took months of rehab to walk again.

sleepyhead292918 karma

Did you have any memory loss when you came round?

WeAreMEL44 karma

I remember more of the event then anyone expected. I remember practically everything. My memory now is effected. They had a hard time believing it, the nurses and Neurologist handling my care.

seniormoments1234517 karma

Why haven't you filed a civil suit?

WeAreMEL44 karma

I spoke to my lawyer about doing that. He told me he wouldn't file it for me but if I really wanted to I would definitely be able to find someone to. I asked Why?! He told me there's no money in it. They would lose the lawsuit for millions, file bankruptcy, and not have to pay me a penny.

killshelter17 karma

How was your buddy’s injuries?

WeAreMEL31 karma

While not as severe as mine its messed him up too. He's not nearly as agile as he was. Stopped working as a mechanic because of this.

theverdictreddit9 karma

Are you glad you woke up?

WeAreMEL11 karma


franklyokay3 karma

Do you remember anything that happened in the room around you while you were in a coma?

WeAreMEL10 karma

I do, not nearly as much as I should, but I do. They played really loud music to try to get me to wake up. I remember being annoyed! Its just bits and pieces that I remember from the Semi Conscious state I was in.

oOzephyrOo2 karma

Are you a more spiritual person now?

Any lasting side effects of the comma?

WeAreMEL4 karma

Im not really more spiritual. I was already very spiritual. I don't believe there are any lasting side effects of the Coma itself. The injury that cause the Coma of course, but the Coma itself I don't think so.

thatalycat1 karma

When you first woke up, what did you think was going on?

WeAreMEL5 karma

When I first woke up I was going to work. After I realized I was tied down I thought i was incarcerated. I must have fought someone and took their life or disabled them. It was much much worse obviously.

Jekyll-n-Hyde1 karma

Why are you in debt? Why isn't the person that caused the accident responsible for your hospital bills?

WeAreMEL9 karma

My health insurance paid out their lifetime maximum. The kids parents auto insurance paid out the maximum of their policy. Anything medical and medicine related costs to damn much in the United States.

Y_am_I_balding-4 karma

Did you get erectile dysfunction after waking up from a coma?

WeAreMEL9 karma

Quite the opposite in fact. I had an erection for nearly an entire day. It made the nurses quite uncomfortable. One even told me I should Masturbate to take care of it. Needless to say I was in the mood for anything like that.

-Blixx--8 karma

Are you more surprised by how many people died of covid, or surprised even more people didn’t die of covid?

WeAreMEL5 karma

Im not really surprise either way. I have enough knowledge of viruses and considering people are all made up differently its really to be expected.

Some people get the FLU and die. Others get it and don't.

Dopecombatweasel-8 karma

Did you need a good wank after 6 months?

WeAreMEL6 karma

It didnt even cross my mind for months. My entire world had ended and I woke up 20 million dollars in debt due to medical expenses. After I maxed out my insurance by reaching my "Lifetime Maximum" that they would cover.