A coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond to painful stimuli, light, sound, and lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle. A coma is caused by injury to either the cerebral cortex or the reticular activating system. It is a serious medical condition that creates brain irregularity and causes people to experience post-traumatic amnesia. Depending on the length of the coma, patients will suffer a different recovery time.
If you have experienced a coma, it generally means that you have gone through a life changing event. Many people are intrigued by the stories of people who have been in a coma and returned to life. In some cases, bright lights and vivid dreams are reported. Almost everyone who has experienced a coma comes out of the experience with a different outlook on life, often time not fearing death and making life changes. This article will examine ten celebrities who experienced a coma and lived to tell the story.
Some notable people who were considered for the list, but left out include Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who fell into a coma after getting spinal meningitis in 1970. American singer Jackie Wilson, who collapsed on-stage in 1975 and subsequently fell into a coma that persisted for nearly nine years, Wilson was left out because he never made a full recovery from his coma. Tupac Shakur, who fell into a coma after being shot on September 7, 1996, American actor Eric Roberts, who fell into a coma after a car accident in Westport, Connecticut, and Johnny Cash, who apparently went into a coma after a degenerative nerve disease gave him problems. Little is written about Cash’s coma, but in an interview with Larry King he was quoted: “I went into a coma and I was there for 12 days. They all thought I was dying and they couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with me. They finally came up with a diagnosis of Shy-Drager syndrome.”
Length of Coma: 8 Hours
Burt Reynolds is an American stand-up comedian and actor. His film debut was in 1961. At the urging of his friend Clint Eastwood, Reynolds used his TV fame to secure leading roles in overseas low budget films, commonly called “Spaghetti Westerns.” In the early 1970s, Reynolds claimed that producer Albert R. Broccoli offered him the role of James Bond, after Sean Connery left the franchise. Reynolds turned down the part, saying “An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.”
On March 15, 1978, Burt Reynolds earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some of his most famous roles include parts in Twilight Zone, Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and All Dogs Go to Heaven.
In 1983, while Reynolds was working on the movie City Heat with Clint Eastwood, he was hit in the head with a chair and broke his jaw. In response to the pain, Reynolds got hooked on a collection of painkillers and became addicted to the sleeping medication Halcion. In 1992, Reynolds gave an interview and said that he nearly died from Halcion. After becoming addicted, he tried to quit the drug cold turkey. In response, his body experienced an immediate reaction and was sent into a coma for eight or nine hours. Reynolds almost died in the attack.
Coma Experience: Burt Reynolds had an out of body experience during the coma. He said: “I had the whole out of body experience. I heard the doctor say that they were losing me and I was going…”
Jayceon Taylor (Game)
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Jayceon Taylor, better known by his stage name Game, is an American rapper and actor. In 2005, Game entered the spotlight as a member of 50 Cent’s Hip hop group G-Unit. Taylor saw success with his debut album, The Documentary, which earned him two Grammy Award nominations. Game then followed the record with two more successful albums. Today, Jayceon is considered to be one of the driving forces in reviving the West Coast hip hop scene, which had been overshadowed by artists from the East and South since the death of Tupac Shakur in 1996.
Jayceon Taylor endured many hardships in his adolescence. At the age of 13, one of Taylor’s older brothers, Jevon, was shot to death outside a gas station. After being kicked out of college, Game started to fully embrace life on the street. He began to sell drugs and run with gangs. On October 1, 2001, Taylor was attacked by two men in his apartment. Taylor thought the men were interested in buying drugs, but instead they assaulted him.
Game was shot five times in an execution-style murder attempt. He was forced to lie on the ground for several minutes while the men robbed him. Taylor then used his cell phone to call an ambulance. Due to the severity of his wounds, Game lapsed into a three-day coma and later emerged with a clear motivation to stop selling drugs.
Coma Experience: “Put your lighters up if you want to. Pull your Dodger cap over your eyes, “til you can’t see.” I want you to go blind, so you can feel how I felt, when I was in that coma.” L.A.X Files.
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Stanley Getz was an American jazz saxophone player. He was known as “The Sound” because of his wispy, lyrical tone. Many critics regard Getz as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists in the history of music. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the musical style of bossa nova, which is a fusion of samba and jazz.
In 1964, Getz released his most popular single, The Girl from Ipanema, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. In 1963, Getz won the Grammy for Best Jazz Performance (Desafinado), which sold over one million copies. In 1964, Getz released the album Jazz Samba Encore, which also sold more than a million copies. In 1991, at the age of 64, Stan Getz won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Solo Performance (I Remember You).
In 1954, Stan Getz was in a bad place and addicted to heroin. After several skirmishes with the law, he tried to ease himself off the drug with a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. In February of 1954 Getz found himself in Seattle, Washington, and was desperate for heroin. He entered a drugstore near his hotel and made a clumsy attempt to rob it (no weapons were involved). Stan pointed his finger at the clerk and demanded morphine. After the clerk asked him to see the gun, Getz ran away.
After being tracked by the police, Stan Locked himself in a hotel room and tried to commit suicide by swallowing a fistful of barbiturates. The police arrested him and a photograph of Stan in the back seat of a patrol car, looking sick and scared, was flashed over the news wire. The overdose took effect minutes after he was put in jail and Stan collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors performed an emergency tracheotomy. Getz entered into a three-day coma and almost died.
Coma Experience: After emerging from the coma, Getz wrote a letter of apology. “When I came out of the coma three days later, with a breathing-tube inserted in my trachea, I realized that God didn’t want to kill me. This was his warning. Next time, I’m sure he won’t let me live.
“As I lay there alive, not wanting to live because of what I had done to my loved ones and all the people who had tried to help me, the nurse came in with a good many letters, telegrams, and phone messages all saying the same thing. They told me not to despair, that people admired my music, and that I should pray as they were praying for me. Most importantly, the letters said they forgave me.”
Length of Coma: 3 Days
Martin Lawrence is an American actor and stand-up comedian. He came to fame during the 1990s with his own television series, Martin, which ran from 1992 to 1997 and a series of movie roles. In the late 1990s, Lawrence established a lucrative Hollywood career as a leading actor, most notably starring in the films Bad Boys, Blue Streak, and Big Momma’s House. Martin has always been known for his erratic behavior and shock comedy. On February 19, 1994, he hosted Saturday Night Live and made crude remarks about women’s genitalia and personal hygiene.
The monologue was completely edited out of NBC reruns and syndicated versions of the show, and Lawrence was banned from Saturday Night Live for life. In 1996, Martin’s co-star, Tisha Campbell-Martin, filed a lawsuit against Lawrence and the show’s producers for sexual harassment and verbal and physical assaults. The lawsuit eventually ended the show. On May 8, 1996, Martin Lawrence was arrested after he reportedly brandished a pistol and screamed at tourists on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. He was hospitalized, with a medical report stating “exhaustion and dehydration.” However, a large collection of witnesses say Martin was high on drugs.
In August of 1999, Martin Lawrence decided to take a jog in 100-degree heat while wearing a number of layers of clothing. After running for a while, Martin collapsed from heat exhaustion and was rushed to the hospital. He slipped into a three-day coma and nearly lost his life. When Martin Lawrence was discovered, he had a body temperature of 107 °F (41.7 °C) and needed a respirator to breathe. When the human body becomes overheated, muscles begin to break down into proteins. The kidney, which cleans the blood, becomes clogged with proteins, which can cause coma and death.
Coma Experience: In his first interview after the incident, Martin Lawrence said: “It kind of woke me up and made me appreciate life. I am just happy to be here. Hopefully when you pass on, somebody can look back and say, wow, they made a difference in some kind of way. After the coma I had to learn to walk again and all kinds of stuff. It was a real traumatic experience. You go under and everything just shuts down.”
Length of Coma: 4 Days
Stevland Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter and activist. Wonder has been blind since shortly after birth. He signed with Motown Records at the age of eleven and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day. Wonder has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and received 22 Grammy Awards, which is the most for any male solo artist. Stevie Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist and in 2009 was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
On August 6, 1973, Stevie Wonder was in a serious automobile crash while on tour in North Carolina. During the accident, a car that was being driven by his cousin John Harris slammed into a logging truck. It is unclear exactly what happened after that, but the most popular report says that Wonder was injured by a log that flew off the truck, crashed through the windshield, and hit him in the face. Another account says that the bed of the truck crashed through the windshield and hit Wonder.
The impact of the crash knocked Stevie Wonder unconscious and put him in a coma for 4 days. After he awoke, Wonder suffered partial loss of his sense of smell and received a long gash over his forehead. Despite the setback, Wonder re-appeared in concert at Madison Square Garden in March 1974 with a performance that highlighted his up-tempo material.
Coma Experience: On August 18, 1973 at the hospital, Stevie Wonder gave his first interview since the accident and was dressed in a green fatigue cap. He declined to go into details about the crash, saying he really didn’t remember much. “The only thing I know is that I was unconscious, and that for a few days, I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future. I have to reach another higher ground.” In 1973, Stevie Wonder released a hit single titled Higher Ground.
Length of Coma: 5 Days
Jerry Garcia was an American musician known for his guitar work, singing and songwriting with the Grateful Dead. Garcia performed with the Grateful Dead for their entire three-decade career. He is one of the greatest guitarists in history and was known for his “soulful extended guitar improvisations.” Jerry toured exclusively with the Grateful Dead from 1965 until his death in 1995, which included 2,314 shows. He also founded and participated in a variety of side projects. Garcia contributed to a number of albums and was an influential presence in a wide variety of musical genres.
In 1986, Jerry Garcia collapsed and entered into a diabetic coma, which resulted from an infection in an abscessed tooth. He almost died during the event and stayed in the coma for five days. The coma was precipitated by Garcia’s unhealthy weight, bad eating habits, and recent drug use. In the 1980s, Jerry was heavily addicted to heroin, cocaine, and a collection of other drugs. He kicked the habit after a stint in drug rehab, but his health was complicated by diabetes. Rumors persist that Garcia’s hair turned from black to grey while he was in the coma.
Jerry Garcia’s coma had a profound effect on his life. It forced him to have to relearn how to play the guitar, as well as other, more basic skills. Within a handful of months, Garcia quickly recovered and rejuvenated his musical career. He said that the coma inspired him to improve his health and return to the stage. For this reason, Jerry Garcia’s energy peaked in the late 1980s before his untimely death in 1995 at the age of 53.
Coma Experience: During his lifetime, Jerry Garcia spoke about his coma. He said it was surreal: “Well, I had some very weird experiences. My main experience was one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences. After I came out of my coma, I had this image of myself as these little hunks of protoplasm that were stuck together kind of like stamps with perforations between them that you could snap off.”
Length of Coma: 8 Days
Ozzy Osbourne is an English heavy metal vocalist and songwriter. In the 1970s, Ozzy rose to prominence as the lead singer of the pioneering English band Black Sabbath, whose dark and hard sound helped spawn the heavy metal genre. Osbourne has achieved multi-platinum status and sold over 100 million albums in his musical career.
Ozzy Osbourne has abused drugs and alcohol for most of his life, but his physical condition is not caused by drug abuse. In 2005, Ozzy Osbourne was diagnosed with Parkin Syndrome, which is a genetic condition very similar to Parkinson’s disease. Ozzy has to take daily medication to combat the involuntary shudders associated with the condition.
On December 8, 2004, Ozzy Osbourne was involved in an all-terrain-vehicle accident on his English country estate. After the crash, it was reported that Osbourne “died twice” and was left in a coma for eight days. The accident happened when he hit a pothole and was catapulted over the handlebars of the vehicle. Ozzy tumbled down a hill and the bike landed on top of him, crushing his chest.
Osbourne’s bodyguard rushed to the scene and gave Ozzy mouth to mouth resuscitation when he stopped breathing. “If it wasn’t for Sam I probably wouldn’t be here. He had to bring me back to life twice.” Ozzy, who was 55-years-old at the time, fractured eight ribs and a vertebra in the accident. Osbourne felt extremely lucky to be alive after the crash. Sharon Osbourne told the newspapers that she would have taken her own life had her husband died. “If Ozzy had gone, I would have gone with him.”
Coma Experience: Ozzy Osbourne described the confusion he felt as he gradually recovered from a coma. “I didn’t know where I was or how long I’d been there. I would often drift in and out of consciousness. Other times there would be a white light shining through the darkness, but no angels, no one blowing trumpets, and no man in a white beard.” Ozzy said that the accident made him “grow up.” “You are bopping along through life and have your ups and downs, but it is amazing how two or three seconds can totally change your life.”
Length of Coma: 9 Days
Sharon Stone is an American actress and former fashion model. In 1992, Stone achieved international recognition for her role in the erotic thriller Basic Instinct. Following Basic Instinct, Stone was listed by People magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. In 1995, Sharon received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (Casino). Some of her other famous roles include major parts in the films Total Recall, The Quick and the Dead, Sliver, Intersection, Sphere, and Cold Creek Manor.
On September 29, 2001, Sharon Stone was hospitalized after experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which was diagnosed as a vertebral artery dissection rather than the more common ruptured aneurysm. She was listed in critical condition and experienced a nine-day coma as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. After the problem was discovered, Stone underwent a seven-hour procedure and surgeons stabilized the torn artery with 22 platinum coils and stopped the bleeding.
“By the time I was admitted to the hospital, I had bled into my spinal column. My brain was pushed forward into my face and I lost 18 percent of my body mass.” In 2012, Stone spoke out about her life, including the brain hemorrhage, miscarriages, and adoption.
Coma Experience: Sharon Stone told Katie Couric that she had a “white light experience” during her brain scare. “When the event hit me I felt like I’d been shot in the head. That’s the only way I can really describe it. It hit me so hard it knocked me over on the sofa. I had a real journey that took me places both here and beyond that affected me so profoundly that my life will never be the same. I am not afraid of dying and I get to tell other people that it’s a glorious and beautiful thing. A giant vortex of white light was upon me. It took off into this glorious, bright white light and I started to see some of my friends. It was a very fast experience and I was suddenly back in my body and the room.”
Length of Coma: 29 Days
Evel Knievel was an American daredevil, entertainer, and motorcycle enthusiast. During his career, Knievel performed over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between the years 1965 and 1980. In 1974, at the height of his career, Evel attempted to launch himself across the Snake River Canyon in a Skycycle X-2 steam-powered rocket (essentially an unguided missile). After the launch, the parachute on the rocket deployed, which slowed the vehicle. The missile reached the opposite side of the canyon, but the wind blew it back. The rocket floated to the ground and crashed just a few feet away from the river’s edge. Knievel suffered only minor injuries, but if the rocket had landed inside the Snake River, he would have drowned.
Evel Knievel holds the record as the person who has survived the “most bones broken in a lifetime” with 433 broken bones. In 1966, Evel Knievel set up his first daredevil show. The following year he came to national attention when Evel persuaded the owners of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to let him jump their fountain on New Year’s Eve. During the jump, Knievel experienced an unexpected deceleration in his motorcycle and crashed short of the safety ramp. He flew over the handlebars and skidded to rest in the Dunes parking lot. As a result of the crash, Evel suffered a crushed pelvis and femur. He broke his hip, wrist, both ankles, and experienced head trauma that kept him in a coma for 29 days. After Evel woke up from the coma, doctors told him that he might never walk again, but Evel made almost a full recovery from the crash.
Coma Experience: After Evel Knievel was asked what it was like to be in a coma. He replied: “How the fuck do I know, I was in a coma.”
Length of Coma: 33 Days
Gary Busey is an American film and stage actor. He has appeared in a large number of films since making his debut in Angels Hard as They Come (1971). In 1978, Busey received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. In the film, all the actors did their own singing and played their own instruments. Busey lost 32 pounds in order to get the part. He has appeared in over 150 films and television shows during his career. Some of his most popular roles are in the movies Silver Bullet, Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, Point Break, Under Siege, and Black Sheep.
On December 4, 1988, Gary Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet during the crash and fractured his skull. Due to intense swelling and bleeding, doctors initially feared that Gary would suffer from permanent brain damage, but he miraculously emerged from a coma after 33 days. During the crash, Busey slid on a patch of gravel at 40 mph, flipped over the handlebars of his motorcycle, and hit his head on the curb. After a period of recuperation and rehabilitation, Busey returned to his film career and has been working as an advocate for traumatic injury prevention ever since.
Busey is a strong supporter of helmets. “I want people to understand that life is very important and that if you’re riding a motorcycle, skateboard, or bicycle without a helmet, you’re challenging the face of death.”
In the past ten years, Gary Busey has earned the public reputation for erratic and bizarre behavior. He has experienced a series of arrests and been featured on some of America’s most trashy reality TV programs. At the recommendation of Dr. Drew Pinsky, Busey was seen by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey’s brain injury might have had a greater effect on him than initially realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively.
Coma Experience: Gary Busey said that during his coma he experienced a vision of the afterlife that changed his life forever. “I remember being aware of only two things during that ordeal. The first was that I entered and returned from a spiritual realm, and that the experience has been the foundation of my faith ever since. The second, and equally important experience, was the healing love and support of the people who surrounded me.” During his surgery, Busey said he was surrounded by angels. “They didn’t appear in the form that people see on Christmas cards. The angels were big balls of light that floated and carried nothing but love and warmth.”
Kurt Cobain was an American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana. In the 1990s, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation.” Cobain was uncomfortable and frustrated with his representation in the media. During the last years of his life, he struggled with heroin addiction, illness, and depression.
On March 1, 1994, Kurt Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis following a tour stop in Munich, Germany. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined by his wife, Courtney Love. On March 3, 1994, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol. Kurt was immediately rushed to the hospital, and spent the rest of the day in a coma. After five days in the hospital, Cobain was released and returned to Seattle.
The strange thing about the life about Kurt Cobain is that some reports paint his personality as a suicidal rocker, while others a family man. Upon his arrival in Rome, newspapers described Kurt as being “in great spirits. He was happy to be going to Rome. He feels comfortable there and was looking forward to having some time off from the tour with his family.” On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered at his Lake Washington home by an electrician who arrived to install a security system. He was 27-years-old.
Coma Experience: “Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.” Kurt Cobain.