For two weeks Claire Wineland was picturing herself wandering through Alaska’s snowy forests, exploring its caves and wildlife.
It was such an intense experience that she didn’t really care that it was freezing cold. In fact, however, Claire had been lying in a hospital bed in a medically-induced coma.
Claire, 18, was born with cystic fibrosis — a condition which causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with sticky mucus. (Scroll down for the video.
1. Claire Wineland, 18, has cystic fibrosis. Five years ago, she suffered an infection and was put into a medically-induced coma for two weeks. She has described the experience in a video on her YouTube channel.
Five years ago, Claire developed a life-threatening infection and doctors put her into a coma to save her life.
In a medically-induced coma, the patient is put into a deep state of unconsciousness to protect the brain from swelling and regains consciousness once he or she is taken off the drugs used to sedate them.
Patients can be placed into varying levels of unconsciousness, depending on the drugs being administered.
Sometimes patients can respond and, though unconscious, can hear conversations around them and keep memories of the experience.
2. Claire said when she was in a sleep state she was still aware of what was going on around her, and could hear conversations.
Having gone through the experience herself, Claire decided to share it in a video on YouTube. It has now been viewed more than 516,000 times. She says:
They gave me drugs continuously for two weeks so I could be in this sleep state.
And when you’re in a coma, you’re still here, you’re aware of everything around you, but it goes through his weird filter thing in your brain, it goes through the drugs.
It turns into something else when it hits your consciousness.
3. Once she was revived and well, Claire analyzed the experience of being in a coma and said it was like a “magnified and intense version of her dreams”. She is pictured leaving hospital.
Claire hallucinated that she was in Alaska, which she says was the “best” part of being in a coma. She said:
I’ve never been to Alaska or shown any interest in Alaska. But somewhere in my sleep I kept going to Alaska and there were pine trees and cones and I was staring at the most beautiful scenery, and there was a little deer in the corner.
It would be freezing cold and I wouldn’t care.
After she regained consciousness, doctors told Claire that they had put ice on her body to bring her temperature down, as part of the treatment they used to fight the illness and bring her back to life.
4. Medics were forced to put Claire in uncomfortable positions while she was unconscious. But she said her brain “made up a story” about why she was lying in that particular way, such as that she was in a hammock.
I had a crazy high fever with a crazy infection and what they do for that is they put ice packs all around you.
So being iced, somewhere in my brain, I thought “ice”: “Alaska”.
Claire said she remembers hearing her stepmother and grandmother talking, while hallucinating that they were all at a log cabin and gossiping about someone else. She said:
In my head we were gossiping and I was in on the gossip, I was talking back to them. I remember so clearly saying something back to them.
But I didn’t [because I was in a coma]. It messes me up now when I think about it.
It was a weird conversation in my head with everyone.
5. What it’s like to be in a coma.
Claire shared the video on her YouTube channel called The Clarity Project, where she uploads clips about the challenges of living with cystic fibrosis to raise awareness about the condition. She said:
[There’s a] hidden world and subculture of being sick. No one really talks about it, it’s [always] a story of dying person and not a sick person. The life of a sick person is incredibly fascinating.
She added that being in a coma made her realize how people’s experiences are influenced by who is around them. She said:
I got thinking about how that works in real life — even when were not on crazy drugs. How do people around us influence our minds and our world?
Basically being in a coma is a very magnified and intense version of our own dreams. There’s a lot we can we about ourselves.
First of all it showed me I love Alaska, and who I love and care about.
And how the world can be manipulated so easily and how our own minds can be manipulated and we can believe so much.
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