Woman Recounts Horrifying Moment She Woke Up During Surgery, Spent 15 Minutes In Agony Before Nurse Realized Mistake

A 23-year-old woman, Sarah Thomas, recently spoke out about a horrifying experience she had while under the knife for a routine tonsil removal. The woman says that during the surgery, she woke up but was unable to move. Therefore, she couldn’t alert medical staff that she was awake and instead was forced to endure 15 minutes of agony before a nurse realized the mistake and put Sarah back to sleep. However, Sarah says she now has nightmares of the ordeal and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and has severe panic attacks.

The Daily Mail reports that Sarah Thomas, 23, went in for a routine tonsil surgery in November of 2013. However, the surgery turned into a nightmare when she woke up during the procedure but was unable to alert the medical team that she was awake because her body had been strapped down before the procedure with her eyelids taped shut. Although the pain paralyzed Thomas in fear, she says that she felt everything and that the 15 minutes she was awake during the surgery were agonizing.

The woman, who hails from London, notes that when she first woke up during the surgery, she says all she felt was pain. She notes that she couldn’t see because her eyelids had been taped shut, but says she knew exactly where she was, as the pain in her throat was severe and she could hear the sound of the laser and medical staff shuffling around the room. She says that for 15 minutes, she endured the pain before hearing a nurse say, “I think she has woken up.” After the nurse told the staff that she thought Sarah is awake, she says it was just seconds before she was back asleep again.

“I could hear the laser and clinical noises like staff moving about. Due to the pain, I knew where I was and that I had woken up. I was screaming inside my head and trying to move but I had no means of signalling that I was awake.”

Prior to the surgery, Sarah says she was excited about the procedure, as she had suffered severe tonsillitis over the years. She notes that tonsillitis was so severe that sometimes she would have difficulty breathing. Therefore, she was excited about the prospect of no longer having to deal with tonsillitis in the future. However, she notes that one of her biggest fears before entering for surgery was the fear that she would wake up during the surgery and feel the pain. Ironically, that fear would become a reality, and Sarah says that she now suffers from post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, and nightmares about the surgery.

“I recall that feeling of being trapped in my own body and in pain. On other occasions, I dream I am back in the operating theater but with a bird’s eye view where I am looking down on myself.”

Following the surgery, Sarah says her brain initially tried to block out the trauma. She says that the anesthesiologist came to her after the surgery to question her about whether she truly woke up during the surgery or if it was all a dream. She initially did not know if it was a dream or real, so the issue was dropped. However, after she returned home, she began having nightmares about waking up during the surgery and recalled information about the ordeal.

An investigation was opened at the hospital, and it was determined by the medical staff that the anesthetic had worn off too soon due to a problem with the machine. As a result, Sarah was awarded nearly $32,000. However, Sarah says that no amount of money can compensate her for what happened to her during the surgery, and she is still living with the results today.

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]