When a loved one is in a coma, it can be extremely difficult to understand what they are experiencing. A coma is a state of unconsciousness in which the person is alive but unable to respond to his or her environment. Many patients come to us in a minimally responsive state. The brain is functioning at its lowest stage of alertness. During a coma and periods of decreased responsiveness, medical and therapeutic interventions are critical to guide the patient toward a successful recovery.
The rehabilitation process begins early while the patient is in coma. Our Coma Recovery Program focuses on three key areas: prevention and treatment of medical complications, monitoring for signs of arousal and awareness, and modifying the environment to promote interaction with others.
Preventing and treating medical complications is accomplished through proper nutrition, monitoring skin tone and preventing muscle contractures. We also provide aggressive respiratory therapy that focuses on reducing or eliminating an individual’s reliance on a breathing tube. During this time, we work on weaning patients from sedating medications and assessing them for other medication needs.
The patient’s rehabilitation team is constantly assessing the individual’s level of consciousness and his or her ability to interact with the environment. The team looks for meaningful responses to things that the patient sees, hears, smells or touches. The person’s individual therapy program is constantly being adjusted based on these responses.
Our years of experience have taught us that there is a value in establishing a calm and nurturing environment. We do this by providing private rooms, controlling external stimulation and creating surroundings that are meaningful to the patient and family. We encourage families to bring pictures, favorite music and meaningful objects for the patient’s room. Since Sacred Heart is located within Columbia St. Mary’s, we have access to onsite specialists and can assist with any type of immediate medical need that may arise.