Riverview, Again Series 1 - Episode 06 - Comatose

Nurse: Her comatose state has lasted for weeks now, detective. Her vital signs have been consistent and stable, but she hasn't woken up.

Mr Hansen: What’s the prognosis?
Nurse: Well the trauma resulted in a subdural haemorrhage that has developed several complications, amongst other areas of extensive damage. We can’t predict what functions she has lost until she wakes up, but the few neurological tests we have been able to perform have had good results. The main question is when she will wake up. Or perhaps even if.

Mr Hansen: Has anyone tried to visit or contact her since she was admitted.

Nurse: Not that I can recall. We tried to contact her next of kin, but we couldn’t get hold of him.
Mr Hansen: Was this her husband?
Nurse: Yes it was.
Mr Hansen: Unfortunately he has fallen under the radar for months now. The department has been trying to contact him for questioning, as part of a separate investigation. Tell me, who else has been in this room regularly?
Nurse: Just the senior nursing staff, the consultant and his colleagues, and the cleaners. However, the nurses have been in rather frequently lately, as she has had some wild disturbances during the night.

Mr Hansen: Oh?
Nurse: She has been heard mumbling, and has even convulsed on occasion. The consultant decided to monitor her brainwave activity to see if she had any epileptic tendencies, but her EEG spiking has displayed some even more alarming patterns.
Mr Hansen: How so?
Nurse: It has been most unusual. Since a fortnight ago, when we started monitoring her, she has been experiencing huge, prolonged spikes in her EEG brain activity.
Mr Hansen: Is that unusual for somebody in a coma?
Nurse: The EEG patterns in comatose patients are highly varied, but these EEG desynchronisations and spiking frequencies are very extreme. Her brain activity is even higher than that of a state of wakefulness.

Mr Hansen: So what does that suggest?
Nurse: It suggests that something bizarre is going on inside her head. She’s not awake, but she is processing a lot of information in her mind.
Mr Hansen: Could she be dreaming?
Nurse: Sure, maybe. She might be dreaming erratically. But it would be as though she's having a constant dream, lasting days at a time.
Mr Hansen: Could she be dreaming about her accident?
Nurse: After experiencing traumatic situations, it's normal for a patient to ruminate over an ordeal or to experience haunting nightmares that relive a past event. It’s very well possible that she is dreaming of incidents before experiencing her trauma, or even dreaming about the accident itself. But even if that’s the case, it’s unlikely that she will recall much information when she wakes up.

Mr Hansen: There weren’t any witnesses to the incident, so her testimony will be worth a lot in this investigation. As soon as she wakes up, we will have to question her.
Nurse: I’m afraid you’ll have to consult her supervising practitioner first. Usually the protocol is for patients to undergo several sessions of counselling before we allow them to speak to anybody -
Mr Hansen: I don’t think you appreciate the magnitude of this investigation, miss. We need information from her.
Nurse: And with respect, detective, you probably aren’t going to get any clear picture from her if you harass her as soon as she batters her eyelids. Coma patients don't often recall things accurately. You will have to be patient. Besides, she will require some time to remember her life before the incident. Interrogating her so soon after waking up might lead to the information being unreliable.

Mr Hansen: Unreliable?
Nurse: Well, there’s always a major distortion in the way coma patients recall events. Some are exaggerated more than others. Sometimes they can experience multiple scenarios, and occasionally they can construct entirely false ones.
Mr Hansen: Then unfortunately it will have to be what we will settle for. This investigation has come to a dead end, and we’re relying on what the victim recalls. But the longer it takes for her to rouse from her coma, the staler this case will become.

Nurse: I’m done here, detective Hansen, so I will have to ask you to now leave.
Mr Hansen: Fine. (Muttering) If only I could see inside your head, Rachel. Then I might be able to get to the bottom of this.