true stories Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery  

Jacob Shelton
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We haven’t done a poll or anything, but we’re pretty sure that one of the biggest shared fears in the world is the possibility of waking up during surgery. The technical term for this is anesthesia awareness or intraoperative recall, and it happens to at least 1,000 patients a year in the U.S. alone. While many of the cases are benign, consisting of hazy flashbacks, up to 70 percent of patients who experience anesthesia awareness suffer from long-term psychological distress and those are the anesthesia awareness horror stories that we’ve listed here for you today.

It would be a delight if we could go through life never having to hear surgery horror stories - it's one of those experiences that really gives us the heebie jeebies. After researching intraoperative recall, we’ve come to the realization that anesthesia doesn’t always work and that we would rather never step foot in a hospital again if the possibility of waking up on an operating room table is anywhere near our cards.

Even after reading the stories of the men and women on this list, we can’t imagine what it must be like to be awake inside your own body, screaming without a voice. It’s a little too Harlan Ellison. If this list doesn’t freak you out and make you think twice about receiving a general anesthetic the next time you go under the knife, then you’re definitely way braver than us.

"How’s It Going?"


"How’s It Going?" is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery
Photo:  uploaded by Jacob Shelton
A 19-year-old Polish girl, Iga Jasica, woke up during brain surgery when her anesthesia wore off and asked the doctors "How's it going?" The doctors say that even though her brain was exposed, "she didn’t feel anything and was never in danger..."

A Very Unsettling Experience


A Very Unsettling Experience is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery
Photo:  uploaded by Jacob Shelton
David Biber realized that anesthesia had little effect on him in 1972, when he required a dozen surgeries after a near-fatal car accident. During one operation, he recalls hearing the muffled sounds of a conversation. He also says he’s been aware during a colonoscopy and cataract surgery when he was supposed to be fully sedated.

Most recently, David woke during a knee surgery to see what appeared to be a pair of forceps protruding from his leg. He told Reader's Digest, "it was very unsettling."

"How Long Is This Going On?"


"How Long Is This Going On... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery
Photo:  uploaded by Jacob Shelton
After a car accident, a woman named Kelly was rushed to hip surgery and was anesthetized, but before the surgery began she could hear the doctors talking about her and knew something was wrong. She was awake, but unable to move as the surgery began, and described the surgery as feeling like a "hot poker" and being the "worst pain" she ever felt. 

"I Was the Person Screaming"


"I Was the Person Screamin... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery
Photo: Army Medicine/Flickr
When Anne Lord went into surgery to have a growth removed from her colon, she had a violent reaction to the anesthetic. She woke up and heard shouting. "I told whoever was screaming to shut up and was told that I was the person screaming," said Lord, 60, from her home near Besançon in France. "I had managed to get my foot out of the stirrups and kicked the surgeon in the chest and he went flying across the room on his wheeled stool."