A BIT OF CARE
Atmosphere – a coma patient can dictate an atmosphere just as much as a brooding partner or a sulky child. We also bring an energetic ‘mood’ into the relationship and these must harmonise before work can begin. We learn to surrender ourselves and follow the process – releasing ourselves of our hopes and dreams for the patient.
Breathing – we know the person is in another time-space and we are not going to shock them out of it, but follow their chosen rhythm instead. So we match our breathing to their breathing. It helps us to enter their altered state.
Introduction – saying our name helps them pick up our energy and if they have lost their autobiographical memory it helps them re-learn relationships.
Touch – we begin by only touching the wrist as the least intrusive part of the body. We speak on their out breath and keep quiet on their in breath to allow them to absorb us either through hearing or sensing. Coma patients say they do not actually hear with their ears in a deep coma but they listen telepathically – knowing if we are angry, burnt out or genuinely loving. They feel encouraged to come to the surface when we are loving – even if only to check this reality out for the last time before moving towards death.
Observation without interpretation – based on our own fears or wishes, it can be too easy to make assumptions about what we think a coma patient is going through. Instead, we try to catch the channel they are communicating in – it may be visual, auditory, verbal, movement, or proprioceptive (inner body feeling). We then look for tiny signs that may become repeated signals… a sound, shift in posture, a tiny movement of the hand. This is the presence of consciousness, however slight, and it can be acknowledged and followed.
Feedback – communication will keep trying to happen in one channel or another until it is acknowledged. Imagine a young child jumping up and down in front of its mother (movement channel), and on being ignored starting to whine (verbal channel). Thus we give the coma patient encouragement to use any channel and acknowledge signs we see, hear, feel or smell. We say things like ‘I can see that!’, ‘Wow I heard that’.
Copying – what do moms do when babies try and communicate? They reply in the same language! We move as the coma patient does, make their sounds, shake like them, etc.
Amplifying – we help them to be aware and strengthen their signals and to use these signals to communicate. If they make a sound, we make the same sound but then may add a bit. If they move their arm, we will see how far it actually wants to go. In this way we re-establish a feedback loop that has been interrupted or lost when coma patients were seen to be ‘not there’.
Resisting – often coma patients are depressed and out of touch with their own strength because of their injury. So when they move we resist the movement gently – it’s amazing when you feel that push back – juice in the tank!