Trapped inside a Nightmare

I could see the bright light through my closed eyes, I knew it was there, I was sure that it was not a dream. I tried to speak, but my mouth felt as if it was taped shut. I could hear them speaking, there were words, low murmurs, sound of metal striking metal. I felt a pressure on my abdomen and heard water gushing some where.
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My heart was fluttering and I was unable to swallow. I wanted to move my hands and scream, 'I am awake', 'I can feel and hear you'. I tried to open my mouth to scream but no words came out. My hands felt as if they were made of lead. I used all my strength to move them, to lift a finger, to show them I was awake. No one could hear the scream inside my head. I was a trapped inside a nightmare, from which there no escape.

My confused mind started playing tricks and I thought I was in a bad dream. A nightmare, that was so vivid that it seemed unreal. I thought, that I will wake up soon and feel silly about the nightmare. I will laugh it off and even forget about it. My mind started rationalising my thoughts.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my lower abdomen and felt a tug. There was a spasm and something was pressed hard on my face. My terror returned with a vengeance and I saw darkness closing around me, as I fainted.

When I came to, I felt unseen hands covering me. There was a clack of wheels and a feeling of being moved. My heart was thudding against my chest as I opened my eyes and saw the face of hubs looking down at me. All I could say was 'I was awake, I could hear and feel everything'.

There was shocked silence as the Doctor asked me 'Were you dreaming?'
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I told him how I had felt, when I was in the operation theatre. I told him of my panic and the terror of being locked inside my head, unable to move my body.

He told me, I had experienced 'Anaesthesia awareness', as I was undergoing a (keyhole) Laproscopic surgery of the Uterus.

Anaesthesia awareness is a phenomenon in which the patient is fully aware of what is happening during the surgery, when under general anaesthesia. Not all patients who suffer from 'Anaesthesia awareness' feel the pain of the surgery. Some like me could hear what was happening in the operation theatre, some others even had an out of body experience, where they could see their own body lying on the operating table.

After I went through this experience, I read about 'anaesthesia awareness' and found out that I had not dreamt it, but had actually experienced it.

After that operation, I went under general anaesthesia three more times, for IVF procedure. Each time, I was in anguish and my heart dropped to my stomach, as I lay on the table and the doctor pushed the medicine into my arm. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I never had to experience anaesthesia awareness again.

Even though I did not suffer from any post traumatic stress because of this incident, I can still recall very clearly the horror of that stressful experience. It is something I will never forget, the feeling of being caught inside a nightmare.

Click here to know more about Anaesthesia Awareness.


  1. As an anesthetist, first of all, let me just say how sorry I am for what you've gone through.
    I have spent my entire post graduate and professional career, worrying that none of my patients should ever suffer Awareness due to any fault of my own.
    Touchwood, till now , all has been well.
    Even though the memory remains haunting you, I am happy that you had the courage to not just face it but overcome it, by going for surgeries under GA again.

  2. Oh my! That sure is one frightful experience! Glad that you are fine and didnt suffer any PTSD.

  3. Oh God, that is quite frightful. You are brave to be describing it in such cool details

  4. oh , I would faint again , if i had one of this out of body experience.. although I rememeber when I was under the knife , I felt so afraid.. at one point I was holding myself from jumping and running away , seriously ..

    Good to know you are all fine you are a brave woman , I must say .. I would not be able to d oit again

  5. You know I had a surgery three weeks back – a laparoscopy –
    and although I was out throughout I
    could hear people speak to each other and like you I heard the clang of metal. Also
    After the surgery I was fully being aware of being wheeled into my room and
    shifted on the bed – The first time I felt pain was when they were shifting me
    on the bed – I felt as if my insides were being ripped apart – I sort of
    screamed as they shifted me. I thought this is normal and I must be dreaming during
    surgery– but then after reading your post I searched the net and realized that
    you are not supposed to dream under General anesthetic – But luckily I felt no pain
    or fear –infact when I heard the doctors and nurses talk I sort of tried to
    strain my ears to hear what they were saying J,
    I remember hazily thinking that the stories about surgeons and nurses talking
    away while performing surgery are true !! But poor you – imagine feeling terror
    and pain !A nightmare really !

  6. Metal striking metal in uterus removal? Can it be true? Awareness is quite common, there aren't any foolproof techniques to ensure albeit much has been meticulously worked out, until then we've too keep apologising!

  7. My God that was scary!! I am terrified of hospitals anyway - this one just proves why!!

  8. Somehow this experience seems very spiritual to me as this is something rare. In spite of the whole incident being scary, it shows the extent the mind can be aware of the happenings even under anesthesia. I am sure that this incident has a place in your heart and that it will be etched in your being. You are a very courageous woman and I am proud of you.

    Joy always,

  9. I'm so relieved there aren't any long term side effects. I went through a lap 5 years ago myself and I'm so relieved I was totally knocked out..initially I thought this was some horror story you penned. But the fact it was so real makes it wayyyy more interesting (and way more scary)

  10. Lucky for me that I do not suffer any long term issues because of this. I have read may people have a lot of PTSD. Though I was scared to go under GA I had no other option so I gathered up all the courage and went ahead with it.

  11. It was not uterus removal. I had undergone a Laproscopic Surgery to clear adhesions since I suffer from a condition called Adenomyosis. The Metal striking metal was the sound of instruments.
    Even though awareness is quite common, it does not make the experience less scary or terrifying. I have written this post to increase awareness of such things happening.

  12. Thanks Shilpa. This was a scary experience.

  13. Two years have passed since I had this experience. I have dealt with the experience and moved on.

  14. I totally understand the jumping and running away thing. The night before my surgery, I could not sleep one wink. I was scared witless.I had no option Bikram, I had to suck it up and go for the IVF procedures.

  15. Ruchira..I did not have any pain. I was terrified because I knew I was not supposed to be awake in the middle of surgery. I was not even suppose to feel the pressure or even feel the lights. That made it scary and especially since I could not communicate to the Doctor that I was Awake.
    Good to know that you are fine too. Get well soon. Take care.

  16. Even I hate hospitals. But when I have to deal with hospitals, I actually suck it up and the face the music.

  17. Yes it does have a place in my heart but it was quite scary. I don't know if it was spiritual or not. Thank you for your kind words Susan.

  18. Gayu, I had initially thought of writing it as an informative piece but then I thought writing my own experience will have a better impact on the reader. Glad to know thinks were OK when you went under GA.

  19. Really vini u r a very couragepus person. while reading ur article itself I am feeling scary thinking about the situation.

  20. Thanks Ceena. It was a scary situation and I was scared too.

  21. I can relate to this, Vinita. It was during the birth of the second one, when the doctor was going through the routine of asking me questions and waiting for the anaesthetic to take effect before the C section. But suddenly I felt the red hot pain of a scalpel slicing through the abdomen and I couldn't scream or tell them I was awake. but thankfully before they did anything the anasthetic had taken effect and I was out. When I told the doctor later, she apologised profusely for being so hasty. I have had three abdominal surgeries after that and I always anxiously ask the doctors to wait an extra minute before plunging that knife....

  22. I have experienced that Vinita. I felt that out-of-the-body experience after my second C-section. I wrote about it in my last post. It was scary, and I have hazy memories of the OT too :(. Thanks for sharing it. It can be quite scary.

  23. omg.. it takes courage to go on that table again after a traumatic experience. hope you never have to tell any such story again!

  24. I hadn't known that such things happen until I saw the movie 'Awake'. After watching that, I had read all about it. I cannot imagine the horror you might have felt. Same thing for Rachna, Zephyr and others who have witnessed this. You guys are really scaring me! :( I don't think I ever want to go into an OT again!

  25. Oh god that must pain so much. Thankfully I had no pain but I was still scared as I could not say anything...

  26. It must feel bizarre to have that experience. I wonder how it feels. It must be so unnerving. Will check out your post.

  27. Nisha I had no option but to go under GA. Thankfully never had that experience again.

  28. It does not happen to everyone. I know it is a scary situation and I wish it never happens to anyone.

  29. Phew.... that is so terrifying! Kudos to you for braving it again and yet again!

  30. Thanks Deepak..It was scary but thankfully there were no long term effects.

  31. I can't imagine how scary that must be. I just had a local anesthesia for my eye surgery and I was so boisterous when they covered my head with a thin sheet - I felt so breathless and helpless too. I have never heard of anyone having the experience you had. Now it seems that Rachna and Zephyr had it too :(

  32. I was sleepless on the night before the surgery. I think Anaesthesia Awareness happens but many people forget it as a bad dream. I registered it as I was immediately awake after the surgery.


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