The Financial and Emotional Cost of a Coma

Did you know that a Tarpon Springs resident holds the Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time spent in a coma? This grim record belongs to Elaina Esposito, who was six years old when she underwent anesthesia for an appendix operation in 1941. She never regained consciousness, and remained in a coma until her death in 1978. At 37 years, she sets the record for longest time in a coma.

What is a Coma?

A coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness. During this state, the patient does not exhibit responses to any stimuli. When someone is simply asleep, bright light or pain, like a pinch on the arm, might wake them up. When someone is in a coma, or comatose, they do not have any reaction to any stimuli, including pain. This is because the comatose person’s brainstem reflex is depressed, which prevents any response, including pupil response to light.

Sometimes, a patient may be put in a medically-induced coma. When a patient is experiencing brain swelling, a comatose state can help their brain heal. It also allows doctors to continuously and closely monitor their vitals.  Other times, a coma is the result of an accident or illness. Some causes include:

  • Head trauma, like from a car accident or fall
  • Brain swelling or bleeding, which can also occur from trauma
  • Stroke
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Drug overdose or alcohol poisoning
  • Oxygen deprivation, like from asphyxiation or drowning
  • Infections of the central nervous system, like meningitis
  • Repetitive seizures


The duration of the coma — and the chances of survival — depend on the cause of the coma. For example, comas that result from head injuries tend to have a higher chance of survival, while comas from oxygen deprivation do not. A coma can last anywhere from a few days to years. The longer a person remains in an unconscious state, the less likely they are to ever wake up. When a person with severe brain damage remains in state of unconscious for a prolonged period of time, and is alive only through medical intervention, it is called a persistent vegetative state. If a person does wake up from a coma, even after a few weeks, they may have significant damage or disabilities, including brain damage. Certain complications, like blood clots or bedsores, can also occur while a person is in a coma.

High Financial and Emotional Cost

When someone is in a coma, they require constant care and supervision. Comatose patients usually stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) and will need the assistance of things like a feeding tube. Some patients can breathe on their own, while others may need the assistance of a ventilator. This is not only a painful experience for the patient’s family and loved ones, but also very expensive and time-consuming. This is why, depending on the circumstances, some people might choose to file a personal injury lawsuit to find compensation for their loved one’s serious injuries. If the coma resulted from a car accident, medical malpractice, fall at work, or wrongful incident, they may be able to find some compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and the pain and suffering they have experienced.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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