Tips on What Parents Can Do in Early Stages of Coma Recovery

A child does not just "wake up" from a coma. It is a very gradual process of becoming more responsive and aware of people and surroundings. Confusion is common, but it can be very upsetting for parents. Your child may not recognize you or may talk and behave strangely, swear, become angry, and even be violent. This is a normal stage of coma recovery, and it is usually temporary. Noise, touch, light, and movement may calm or upset your child. Many children have "traumatic amnesia" in which they do not remember a period of time or events after the injury. It is difficult for professionals to predict how long this confusion will last, but there are ways you can help your child.

Suggestions for parents, family and visitors

"You were in an accident and now you are in the hospital. I am here with you."

"It's morning," rather than, "It's eight o'clock ."

"It's Mom. Dad is here with me."

"This is your sister, Kate. I'm holding your hand."

"I have your favorite book." Or "Grandma is coming to visit this afternoon."

"I'm playing your favorite CD of         "

"I'm going to read your favorite story,         "

Rather than saying, "That's not right...," suggest doing it a different way.

Instead of, "Can you see me?" tell your child, "I can see you. Your eyes are open." Instead of, "Can you move your arm?" say, "Reach for my hand."

Instead of, "Do you remember when the car hit your bike?" Tell your child, "You were riding your bike and a car hit you. You have been in the hospital for three days."

Sample of note that describes your child...

My nickname is Suzy. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. I am in the 3rd grade. My favorite color is purple. My dog is named Ralph and my cat is Calico. My favorite treat is ice cream, especially chocolate. I like to wear my hair in a ponytail. I don't like stupid jokes, but I giggle a lot when my brothers tickle me. This is a picture of me with my family at my birthday party last week.

Reading Resources for Families

Head Injury: A Booklet for Families

by Ruth Hutchison, MS and Terry Hutchison MD, PhD (1988)

Published by Brain Injury Association of Texas.

Coma: When Your Child is in a Coma available at

by Ron Savage, Ed.D. and Marilyn Lash, MSW (1997)

Published by Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, 708 Young Forest Drive, Wake Forest, NC 27587.