20 Stories Revealing How It Feels To Wake Up In The Middle Of A Surgery
So I’m not trying to make you go all freaky if you have some sort of surgery planned out soon, but there’s a teeny-tiny chance of waking up in the midst of it. But don’t worry! The stakes are minimal, I promise! Only one or two of every 1,000 patients going through surgery involving anesthesia may experience anesthesia awareness (waking up). That’s less than 1%. The odds are the same as cracking open an egg with a double yolk.
Confused, perhaps a little dizzy, and back you drift off to the dreamland. Because the chances of this happening are so low, it’s fascinating to hear from people who have actually undergone this experience. Thanks to these two threads (1,2) on Reddit, we have selected some of the most interesting ones to share with you.
Did you or someone you know have experienced anesthesia awareness? If not, have you got any similar medical horror stories to share? If so, you can write it down in the comments!
“I woke up during surgery to remove a bone spur from my big toe. I must have made a sound because the doctor looked at me and said what are you doing up? Go back to sleep. I said do I have pretty bones? And he said yes now go to sleep. And then I went back to sleep. I did not feel any pain at all. And I was so drugged up I wasn’t even scared.”
“I’m a big guy and when the anesthesiologist gave me the dose he told me I would be asleep in 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later I’m lying there still awake and I can hear that they are about to start. So I decide to give a “hey there”. The doctor was astonished and was like “you’re still awake??”. So they have me another dose and I finally drifted off. I woke somewhere in the middle of the surgery and I could tell they had no idea I had woken up. I started to feel a lot of pain but I was afraid of startling the doctor, making his hand slip…so I kind of quietly saying ow but got louder and louder until they heard me and freaked out. All is well now though! Heart is fully functioning and all.”
“In the 90s I woke up during knee surgery. Like just fully snapped awake and sat up. All of these wide-eyed masked faces just turned and stared at me.
I looked down at my clamped open leg, looked at one of the masked faces that everyone seemed to be deferring to and said “I don’t think I want to be awake for this.”
They put me back under and as a drifted off I started to feel pain.
Woke up after the surgery and the doctor came in and apologized. I had specifically mentioned that I require more anesthesia than most people (the redhead thing thatcis finally being acknowledged in modern medicine) but they didn’t believe me and gave me a normal dose.”
“I woke up during a routine colonoscopy. It felt like they were shoving a board through my intestines…the pressure was unreal. I remember I was finally able to say “please stop!” Both the nurse and the doctor’s eyes got as big as saucers, and that’s the last thing I remember. Normally, you wake up in recovery, get up and go home pretty much alert. I slept for 24 hours because of the extra bump they had to give me to put me back under to complete the colonoscopy.”
“SCRAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE GRIND GRIND GRIND CRRRRRGHSLUUUUURRRRP CRRRRSCHLUUUUURRRRP SHHHHHHKKKTTTLUUUUURP…
“he’s moving a bit, would you… thanks” … ksssshhht zzzzzzzz…”
Image source: pics-or-didnt-happen
“I woke up while they were putting a metal plate in my arm. They used a block which basically made my entire arm from shoulder to hand numb. When I woke up I could remember hearing a drill and a slight pressure in the arm they were working on. I just said “This is awesome” followed shortly by someone saying “oops.” Quickly went back to sleep.”
“I woke up partway through having all 4 wisdom teeth removed. The assistant had wrapped her arms around my forehead, the dentist had his knee on my sternum and was yanking two handed on the largest pair of pliers I have ever seen that somehow fit into my mouth. He stopped, nodded to the anesthesiologist and then thankfully I didn’t remember anything else.”
“Broke my arm (very close to the wrist) during a dirt bike accident but me being me, I was just like “naaaww, its just a sprain and it will heal”. It did heal but VERY crooked. Went in for surgery to have it broken a set straight. Mid way through surgery i’m woken up by a tugging and a muffled thud. I open my eyes to see numerous doctors and nurses pulling my arm in oposing directions and there is one doctor hitting my arm by the “breaking point” with a mallet. Next thing I knew im waking up on the recovery room. Apparently a nurse was on standby with a hardcore sedative just in case as I seemed to be initialy resisting the gas.”
“I was 14 and had to be put under for a hernia surgery, and as they were stitching me up I woke up and demanded that I have a cup of Coke with “the good ice”? I don’t remember any of that but I do remember waking up craving Coca-Cola and being pleasantly surprised that I had one in the cup holder on the way home.
I don’t actually like Coca-Cola that was the odd part.”
“I woke up in the middle of gall bladder removal surgery. I couldn’t look down, but I know I was cut open on the operating table by the bloody knife and vacuum tube in the surgeon’s hand. The thing that bothered me most, though, was the fact that there was a tube down my throat and it was really difficult to breathe. There were a lot of “Oh my God”s and “Please don’t move”s, some said very loudly and near the edge of panic. Finally the doctor yelled for someone to give me another dose of anesthetic, and bonk I was out like a light.”
“Had to have a lumpectomy done about 3-4 years ago. The anesthesiologist came in to speak to me about general and how I would be put under for the procedure, blah blah blah. Fast forward to the surgery room- I’m wheeled in, some medication is given to me through my line, I start to feel kind of loose. Enter as**ole surgeon. Anesthesiologist starts to tell her he’s about to start my general. She gives him the look of death followed by “She’s not going under for this.” He looks at her kind of funny, says no I’ve told the patient we would do general and I think that’s best for this situation. Surgeon doesn’t agree, says twilight only, I try to speak, I’m vetoed. In goes local and I wake up mid-surgery attempting to speak and lifting my head up freaking out. Anesthesiologist flips his s**t, grabs my line, in goes general. He paced through my recovery room for the next two hours waiting for me to wake up. I make eye contact as I come to, he lets out a HUGE sigh and leaves the room. Never again do I see that surgeon.”
“I woke up in the middle of a root canal. I remember opening my eyes and not knowing what the hell was happening I grabbed the dentist hand and doing so I scared the life out of him he ending up screaming and yelling for the nurse to increase what ever cocktail iv I had. After he was done and I was fully awake we laughed about it and he told me I was his 1st patient to wake up in the 15 years he’s been practicing.”
“I was having surgery on my ankle in 2005, getting a few pins placed because I’m super graceful and broke it. I woke up to hearing what sounded like a drill, and feeling a lot of pressure at my foot. I didn’t feel any pain, thank goodness.
I opened my eyes and looked directly at the anesthesiologist, who immediately said “hold on. She’s waking up.” Everyone kind of stopped what they were doing, and then I went back under.
When I came to again, I was in the recovery ICU with the doctor. I asked her how long into the surgery I woke up, and she told me I was only out 15 minutes before I needed more anesthesia. She also told me I’d scared the s**t out of her, because it was the first time anyone had ever woken up on the table in her experience. Granted, she was fairly young so I don’t think it’s all that uncommon.
She was really cool about everything though. She asked if I’d been afraid and needed someone to talk to, and I told her no. I was never scared or in pain, so as far as I was concerned it was just a weird experience during my otherwise successful surgery.”
“I woke up, felt really peaceful. Couldn’t really see anything, I think my eyes were just cracked open a bit, so I had the impression of people moving around.
Then I tried to take a breath. Couldn’t do it. All my muscles were paralyzed. I started to get air hunger so badly, my mind was racing, I was in a panic, but I could not make my lungs take in air and I couldn’t tell any of these shadowy doctors and nurses around me that I was dying. It was horrible. I think someone noticed my heart was racing because there was a sudden feeling of extra attention and alarm from the shadowy figures and I was put under again.
When I spoke with my doctor about it later he admitted there had been a bit of a problem with the anesthesiology, but that I had never been in danger. He apologized and I appreciated both that I hadnt imagined this horrible situation, and that he hadn’t tried to pretend I imagined it. My brother is a nurse and some of the crappy things he’s told me he’s seen happen in the operating room are never admitted to patients afterward, I guess because of fear of lawsuits.”
“Woke up during a form of gastric bypass in 2001. I remember feeling the worst pain of my life. I couldn’t hear anything and knew my eyes were taped shut. The only thing I could thing to do was move my hands as I could feel the restraint. I started rolling my hands as much as possible and that was it. I had gall stones the size of golf balls in my gall bladder, broke my leg during roller derby and walking on it to take myself to the hospital, and got to almost 8 cm dilated before I requested the epidural. Waking up during surgery is my 10. Nothing has come close to that pain.”
“I was getting an ablation done to my heart because of an irregular heartbeat.
I woke up at apparently entirely the wrong moment because I moved a bit, and the doctor/surgeon started screaming ‘SIR!! DO NOT MOVE THIS IS A CRITICAL PART OF THE PROCEDURE’ Something like that anyway.
A nurse appeared next to me and literally held my shoulders down until they put me under again.
Was a scary 30 seconds or so.”
“I woke up during foot surgery–I had conscious sedation and local anesthesia in my foot. I remember feeling super chilled out. I felt like me, the surgeon, and all the other people in there were buddies. They were sawing off part of a bone and I remember thinking that it felt kinda good, like a foot massage. I asked the surgeons if I could see what they were doing and they said something like “no, go back to sleep.” I think I asked this question more than once during the surgery.
I remember waking up right after the surgery as they were preparing to transfer me to the recovery room. The surgeon said something like “haul your a*s onto this stretcher.”
Not gonna lie, it was pretty awesome.”
“I wasn’t put under for my wisdom teeth extraction, just given halcion to make me loopy and out of it (I wasn’t supposed to remember most of it) and of course local anesthesia. But halfway through the procedure I vaguely remember beginning to cry as I felt the dentist struggle to get part of a tooth out, and it literally felt like he was just trying to rip the damn thing out of my head. Horribly painful and traumatic. He was like, “Oh gosh you gotta tell me if it hurts!” Well I tried sir but I’m more drugged than I’ve ever been in my life and your hands are in my mouth.”
“I had 4 wisdom teeth remove (all impacted).
Funny thing was I counted all the way to 10, looked at the Doctor and was like… uh, is this it?
Doctor was shocked, nodded for another hit and i managed to make it to 7.
Woke up during the operation with a giant vice in my face to keep my mouth open. “Hit him again!”
Woke up a second time, as he was yanking on my jaw, “What the f*ck? Hit him again!!!”
The gas wore off right as he was cleaning up.
I vaguely remember chatter during the procedure too.”
“I woke up during surgery to repair a shattered Humerus. My whole shoulder was dissected open and a dude was using a screwdriver and a drill to attach a steel plate to the bones pull the parts together.
Me: ahhhhh! (Screaming through O2 mask) Doc: (turning pale) I thought you were out ! Me: Im not f*cking out you stupid motherf*cking son of a b*tch. AAAhhh! This f*cking hurts ! Stop that ! Goddammit….. (continued to scream curses in five languages at the poor doc, who is looking at the anesthesiologist….) And then I was out. My wife, who was in the waiting room, said she knew it was me screaming, and really, really had to keep herself calm and not run back there and start kicking as*es.
I felt so bad at the nasty s**t I said to the poor doc that I looked him up and apologized a week or so later when I was in for a post hospital stay checkup.
Me: Um, I’m really sorry at the stuff I said to you. Doc: You remember that ? Me: Yeah, and I’m really not like that. I’m sorry. Doc: (Chuckling).. it’s OK, it happens. I’d yell too. So.. how are you ? Me: Better
Thanks again, Doc. Without you I’d have a stainless steel joint and be even more f*cked up than I am with just some screws and rivets and s**t. Or have a plain pinned up sleeve and no arm at all. Because that damage was epically bad.”