Queen of Sleep

Living with narcolepsy: a personal journey

Out of Control of Time

with 3 comments

A year ago I came across The story of Ann Shapiro (mentioned in article below). When I feel like time is slipping away, I think of Ann who suffered a stroke in 1963 at the age of 50 and woke up again 30 years later to a new world. Perhaps it’s my worst fear to fall asleep/enter a vegetative state or as in the case of Miss Lily Smith (Awake for only 12 days this century – ‘miracle’ of coma woman | World news | The Guardian.) “minimally conscious” i.e. eyes open and body rigid. It’s probably most people’s greatest fear to become completely passive – freeze in time like the stone statues created by the White Witch in the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. At the same time I can’t help but to be fascinated by the experience of “falling asleep” for 30 years and then wake up to an entirely new world or literally be frozen in time – to become an observer of time – to be conscious but unable to move.

A report last year by Cambridge University researchers showed that patients who are apparently unconscious often have more brain function than previously suspected. The study showed that the brains of comatose patients responded to verbal stimuli in a similar manner to those of conscious volunteers. The team admitted it was “absolutely stunned” by the findings.

I find this information interesting because when I get a cataplexy attack, I get completely incapable of communicating but I can hear everything people say around me. Perhaps it’s the same for people who become “minimally conscious”?

Ann’s life story and her experience of disjointed time has been turned into a film called  “Forever Love” and it starred Reba McEntire. It is a loosely based adaptation of the Annie Shapiro story. I haven’t seen the television movie, as it is referred to as, but the plot summary seems to have removed everything that I found interesting with the story and added another character so when Ann (who here is only in a coma for 20 years) wakes up she has adjust and find her place in a family set up of 4 family members. The strapline reads: She will discover betrayal before she discovers herself. What have they done? According to this article from The Jamaica Observer , Her biggest excitement in her last years was when the movie was made of her miraculous awakening. It starred singer Reba McEntire. ” That’s me,” laughed Anne Shapiro, the last time I spoke with her. “I can’t wait to see it.” I don’t know if she ever saw the film but somehow she managed to outlive her family and passed away in 2003, 90years old. She would have been a fascinating woman to meet. The person to have spent the longest time is a coma was Elaine Esposito: 37 years and 111 days. She never woke up. Ann was very lucky not only to wake up but also to be so coherent after being “away” for 30 years.


Written by Queen of Sleep

May 9, 2011 at 6:37 am

3 Responses

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  1. Edwarda O’Bara surpassed Elaine Esposito’s record. O’Bara has been in a coma for 42 years.


    November 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

  2. O’Bara went Home to be with the Lord on November 21, 2012. She is of Polish origin (due to the original family spelling Obara).


    February 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm

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