Anesthesia Awareness Horror Stories: Awake During Surgery

It would be a delight if we could go through life never having to hear surgery horror stories – it’s one of those experiences that really gives us the heebie jeebies. After researching intraoperative recall, we’ve come to the realization that anesthesia doesn’t always work and that we would rather never step foot in a hospital again if the possibility of waking up on an operating room table is anywhere near our cards.

Even after reading the stories of the men and women on this list, we can’t imagine what it must be like to be awake inside your own body, screaming without a voice. It’s a little too Harlan Ellison. If this list doesn’t freak you out and make you think twice about receiving a general anesthetic the next time you go under the knife, then you’re definitely way braver than us

“How’s It Going?”
A 19-year-old Polish girl,  Iga Jasica, woke up during brain surgery when her anesthesia wore off and asked the doctors “How’s it going?” The doctors say that even though her brain was exposed, “she didn’t feel anything and was never in danger…”
A Very Unsettling Experience

David Biber realized that anesthesia had little effect on him in 1972, when he required a dozen surgeries after a near-fatal car accident. During one operation, he recalls hearing the muffled sounds of a conversation. He also says he’s been aware during a colonoscopy and cataract surgery when he was supposed to be fully sedated.

Most recently, David woke during a knee surgery to see what appeared to be a pair of forceps protruding from his leg. He told Reader’s Digest, “it was very unsettling.”

“How Long Is This Going On?”
After a car accident, a woman named Kelly was rushed to hip surgery and was anesthetized, but before the surgery began she could hear the doctors talking about her and knew something was wrong. She was awake, but unable to move as the surgery began, and described the surgery as feeling like a “hot poker” and being the “worst pain” she ever felt.
“I Was the Person Screaming”
When Anne Lord went into surgery to have a growth removed from her colon, she had a violent reaction to the anesthetic.  She woke up and heard shouting. “I told whoever was screaming to shut up and was told that I was the person screaming,” said Lord, 60, from her home near Besançon in France. “I had managed to get my foot out of the stirrups and kicked the surgeon in the chest and he went flying across the room on his wheeled stool.” 
“People Were Tearing at Me”

In 2004, a 60-year-old man checked in for open gastric bypass surgery and a gallbladder removal at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. In the postoperative room after the surgery, nurses asked the man whether he was in pain. “Not now,” he said, “but I was during surgery.”

He reported “unimaginable pain” and “the sensation that people were tearing at me.” According to a clinical report, he heard voices around him and “wished he were dead,” but when he tried to alert the surgical team, his body did not respond to his brain’s commands.

“I Was Screaming but No One Could Hear Me”
Carol Weihrer, an activist for anesthesia awareness, says that she was awake but paralyzed during eye surgery in 1998 and that she could tell her surgeon telling his trainee to “cut deeper into the eye.” After the surgery she said that “I’ve had to sleep in a recliner for the last 16 years… If I lie flat, I get flashbacks of the operating table and I start violently thrashing.”
“I Was Fighting for All I Had”
In 2008, a woman woke during gallbladder surgery and realized that she was breathing through a tube and could feel the surgeon making an incision near her belly button. She said, “At that point, I was aware, I could not scream because of the breathing tube, all I could think of is I have got to move some way; I was fighting for all I had in my mind to move as they proceeded with the second incision up by the rib cage, there is no words to describe the pain.”
“I Could Smell the Bone as It Was Being Sawed Away”
The last thing chef  Peter Unruh said to his surgeon before surgery began was, “For God’s sake, make sure you knock me out because I can’t stand pain.” His wish was their command, but after a minute he woke up on the table. “I could smell the bone as it was being sawed away, and felt the vibration as they bashed the replacement hip into my thigh,” says Peter, “I was pretty surprised but I couldn’t feel any pain, so they’d obviously got the dosage of painkillers just right. I called out to the surgeon, “Er, excuse me but I’m awake.” 
She Was Conscious, but She Couldn’t Scream
During surgery to remove her appendix, Alexandra  Bythell was hit with the feeling that she’d woken up from a dream into a nightmare while surgeons were preparing to slice into her. Her body was paralyzed by anesthesia, she couldn’t scream due to an oxygen tube down her throat, and her eyes were taped shut. She “thought she was going to die,” but luckily the surgical team realized she was awake and applied a morphine drip. 
“I Couldn’t Believe What Was About to Happen”
Due to an abscess in her mouth, Diane Parr was wheeled into surgery to remove  two teeth in her lower jaw. After being given a general anesthetic she was wheeled into the surgical room and the procedure began. She said, “I honestly thought I was about to die, from the shock as much as the pain,’ she says. “My heart was pounding so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”  Dianne then heard the surgeon say ‘it’s a toughie’ and ask for the scalpel. After that, she passed out from the pain. 
“I Have Never Experienced Pure Panic Like It Ever Before”
During stomach surgery, a mother of two r emembers having a tube fitted into her hand and then “going black,” before becoming aware of the most excruciating pain. She says, “I could feel them cutting across – it was them cutting my stomach open.  I was unsure whether I was dreaming. I tried to wiggle my toes desperately hard but I couldn’t move anything.”
“I Thought I Would Die Immediately”
As June Carson went into surgery she realized that her  anesthetist had miscalculated the dose, leaving her to be awake throughout her entire surgery. After 15 minutes of the surgery, her heart stopped from the shockFortunately, with an injection of adrenaline, June’s heart started to beat again.
Terrible Anesthetic, Great Torture
In 2013, a Louisiana man,  Hector L. Alonso, sued the Tulane University medical center claiming that he woke up during cataract surgery and when he alerted the surgeons he was quieted by tape being placed over his mouth. He sued for the loss of vision in his right eye, as well as the “tortured” experience of being restrained during the surgery.
She Was Told to Shut Up
Reality star Saaphyri had a botched surgery when she woke up during an operation, alerted the doctor, and he ” told her to be quiet.” She also said that the surgeon was later murdered at a FrostyFreeze.
“This Is a 10! This Is a 10!”
mother of three and physical therapist, Becky Evans, had to have a C-Section during her first childbirth but she didn’t receive enough anesthesia and after telling the doctor that she could feel the blade she was ignored. ” I often ask patients to rate their pain on a scale from zero to ten, with ten being the worst pain they have ever felt. In those moments, it seems silly, but the only thing going through my head was, ‘This is a 10!!! This is a 10!!'” she said.
“It Felt Like My Torso Was on Fire”
In a post surgical nightmare, Juliette Wills awoke still connected to her tubes and said she ” was in white-hot searing pain. It felt like my torso was on fire.” Despite the surgery being over, the epidural had not been applied properly. She believes the pain of the improperly applied local was what woke her up. 
Buried Alive
In the final weeks of his life,  Sherman Sizemore felt like people were trying to bury him alive. While under surgery to diagnose the cause of abdominal pain, Sizemore was awake for the procedure but could not move ofrspeak. On Feb. 2, 2006, Sizemore killed himself. His family says he had no history of psychological distress before his surgery.
Just Reflexes…
In the UK, one patient required an operation that involved cutting open his leg and drilling into the bone. He tried to alert his doctors by wiggling his toes, and after she noticed, the doctor told her that it was “just reflexes.” He had to lie there in pain while his leg was sliced open and four holes were drilled into the bone. He tried to stop breathing in an attempt to alert the OR staff, but the ventilator began “breathing for him,” keeping him alive throughout the surgery.
“I Was Awake in There!”
A 31-year-old woman with Hodgkin’s disease was due to have her spleen removed, pointed out that the patient’s pupils weren’t dilated, but the anesthesiologist lectured them on how anesthetics worked and shut the patient’s eyes. The patient suffered for 45 minutes during the surgery. After the patient was wheeled out of the OR the muscle relaxant wore off and she was able to shout, “I was awake in there!”
My Worst Nightmare
In 2012, A Swedish man who was undergoing lung surgery woke up 15 minutes into surgery due to an increased amount of energy in his brain and a coughing reflex. When speaking with the National Board of , he said,  “My brain kept telling me over and over ‘say your name, say something, do something, wiggle your toes’ but I was completely incapable of [doing anything].”
“Lots of Blood, Lots of Violence”
At only 4-years-old in the 1960s, Linda Campbell was brought to the hospital to have her appendix removed. The surgery was a success, but after she was brought home she began suffering from fits of random vomiting and disturbing dreams of ” people being cut open, lots of blood, lots of violence…” Years later, during a session with a hypnotherapist, Campbell had an inoperative recall of being awake on the operating room table during her surgery. 
“It Was as Though Someone Took a Blowtorch and Stuck It in My Stomach”
Jeannette Magdelene woke up in the middle of an elective surgery in 2008, saying afterwards, “As soon as he put the scalpel into my flesh, it was as though someone took a blow torch and stuck it in the right side of my stomach. It was like being buried alive in myself.”
She Literally Woke up Screaming
During a liposuction in mid -2015, a woman woke up screaming while being operated on in a dental chair. In a nightmare of a quote, the woman said, ” They were still taking fat from my legs. The doctor told me afterwards that he had to continue with me awake or my legs would have been uneven”
“It Felt as Though Nothing Would Ever Work Again”
How is this for horrific? At the age of 12, a girl named Sandra woke during a dental operation, later saying that ” I thought I was about to die. It felt as though nothing would ever work again — as though the anesthetist had removed everything apart from my soul.” Yikes. 
A Truly Horrible Experience
While undergoing a laporoscopy in the ’80s, Maria Paisley woke up to the sensation of “being beaten and punched around her lower body.” She later remarked that “It was truly horrible. I wondered whether it was a nightmare or real.”
“Drowning in an Ocean of Searing Agony”
In 1990, Jeanette Liska was subjected to a living nightmare when she found herself awake on the operating table during with no way to communicate her horrifying situation to the doctors and nurses performing her abdominal surgery. In her book, Silenced Screamsshe wrote“Drowning in an ocean of searing agony, I sensed the skein of my entire life unraveling, thread by thread. But I was the only one who heard my own tortured screams—silent screams that reverberated again and again off the cold walls of my skull…”