Look, Pandas, we don’t wanna scare you, but we also don’t want to lie to you: there’s a small chance (teeny-tiny, really) that you might wake up during surgery. One minute you’re enjoying a cup of tea with the Mad Hatter in Wonderland, the next—your eyes are open and you see a bunch of doctors looking down on you.
Confused, maybe even a bit scared, you then drift off again. It’s not a situation you can fully be prepared for, but it’s something you should be aware of beforehand if you ever have your wisdom teeth pulled, have knee surgery, or anything else. The internet is full of stories about anesthesia awareness, and we’ve collected the most memorable ones from all over r/AskReddit to share with you today.
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
Don’t forget to upvote the posts that impressed you the most. And if you’ve got any similar medical horror stories to share with all the other readers, you can do so in the comments. Do we have any Medical Pandas in today? You can tell us all about your own experiences with anesthesia, too.
A small warning for those of you who are slightly more sensitive than the rest: this article might make you a bit uncomfortable. If you’d like something else to read, check out our post about dogs doing cute and funny things over here. Those of you who feel brave should scroll down.
Dr. Andrew Carroll, the CEO/Medical Director of Atembis LLC and Family Physician, was kind enough to share his thoughts on doctor-patient interactions before, during, and after surgery. “Doctors should be spending time discussing the risks, benefits, alternatives, and intended and expected outcomes of a surgery in detail. However, patients should demand from those same doctors the ability and time necessary to ask any and all questions they have prior to that surgery, and not on the day of surgery. If you have questions about your surgery (as long as it’s not emergency surgery) you can always delay your procedure to ask the questions that need answers,” he explained to Bored Panda.
In the 90s I woke up during knee surgery. Like just fully snapped awake and sat up. All of these wide-eyed masked faces just turned and stared at me.
I looked down at my clamped open leg, looked at one of the masked faces that everyone seemed to be deferring to and said “I don’t think I want to be awake for this.”
They put me back under and as a drifted off I started to feel pain.
Woke up after the surgery and the doctor came in and apologized. I had specifically mentioned that I require more anesthesia than most people (the redhead thing thatcis finally being acknowledged in modern medicine) but they didn’t believe me and gave me a normal dose.
Image credits: SlothOfDoom
Dr. Carroll noted that patients ought to remember that there’s an entire team attending to them during surgery. “The person monitoring your anesthesia has a responsibility to make sure you’re comfortable, your pain is controlled, and ideally you’re asleep during any sort of significantly invasive procedure,” he told Bored Panda.
“There are also nurses watching you and the surgeon will often notice when a patient is not fully under. Speaking to the medical professional after the surgery if you had an unexpected outcome such as waking, will educate that professional so that they do a better job in the future. A physician not willing to accept criticism to improve is not truly a professional,” he said.
I’m a big guy and when the anesthesiologist gave me the dose he told me I would be asleep in 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later I’m lying there still awake and I can hear that they are about to start. So I decide to give a “hey there”. The doctor was astonished and was like “you’re still awake??”. So they have me another dose and I finally drifted off. I woke somewhere in the middle of the surgery and I could tell they had no idea I had woken up. I started to feel a lot of pain but I was afraid of startling the doctor, making his hand slip…so I kind of quietly saying ow but got louder and louder until they heard me and freaked out. All is well now though! Heart is fully functioning and all.
Image credits: BroBiOneKanobi
I woke up while they were putting a metal plate in my arm. They used a block which basically made my entire arm from shoulder to hand numb. When I woke up I could remember hearing a drill and a slight pressure in the arm they were working on. I just said “This is awesome” followed shortly by someone saying “oops.” Quickly went back to sleep.
Image credits: caboose88
Bored Panda also wanted to get Dr. Carroll’s take on what kind of support can help medical professionals deal with the stress of their job. “The administrative burden placed on physicians by insurance companies, hospital administrations, etc. are major contributors to health professional stress,” the doctor said.
“Physicians are used to the stress of managing patient care and helping people through their health issues. We can do that all day long. However, administrative burdens make our job so significantly difficult that many physicians are considering early retirement. Removing those burdens will improve healthcare delivery, and not just in the United States,” he pointed out that those burdens also affect physicians in Canada, the UK, and elsewhere.
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, only one or two in 1,000 medical procedures that involve general anesthesia involve a patient becoming conscious. Other research indicates that the actual odds might be far, far lower.
“The condition, called anesthesia awareness (waking up) during surgery, means the patient can recall their surroundings, or an event related to the surgery, while under general anesthesia. Although it can be upsetting, patients usually do not feel pain when experiencing anesthesia awareness,” the ASA explains.
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
I woke up during surgery to remove a bone spur from my big toe. I must have made a sound because the doctor looked at me and said what are you doing up? Go back to sleep. I said do I have pretty bones? And he said yes now go to sleep. And then I went back to sleep. I did not feel any pain at allAnd I was so drugged up I wasn’t even scared
Image credits: rumtiger
I was 14 and had to be put under for a hernia surgery, and as they were stitching me up I woke up and demanded that I have a cup of Coke with “the good ice”? I don’t remember any of that but I do remember waking up craving Coca-Cola and being pleasantly surprised that I had one in the cup holder on the way home.
I don’t actually like Coca-Cola that was the odd part
Image credits: badhatteer
I woke up in the middle of gall bladder removal surgery. I couldn’t look down, but I know I was cut open on the operating table by the bloody knife and vacuum tube in the surgeon’s hand. The thing that bothered me most, though, was the fact that there was a tube down my throat and it was really difficult to breathe. There were a lot of “Oh my God”s and “Please don’t move”s, some said very loudly and near the edge of panic. Finally the doctor yelled for someone to give me another dose of anesthetic, and bonk I was out like a light.
Image credits: Hecate100
Awareness during surgery isn’t the same as remembering what happened before the anesthesia started working. Some patients even dream during surgery and think that they were conscious during the procedure when actually they weren’t.
Some patients are more likely than others to regain consciousness during surgery. “It can be more common in patients with multiple medical conditions, and certain surgeries or circumstances increase the risk of awareness because the usual dose of required anesthesia cannot be used safely. These surgeries are often emergencies, such as emergency C-sections, certain types of heart surgery, and surgery that’s needed after a traumatic injury,” the ASA explains.
I was having surgery on my ankle in 2005, getting a few pins placed because I’m super graceful and broke it. I woke up to hearing what sounded like a drill, and feeling a lot of pressure at my foot. I didn’t feel any pain, thank goodness.
I opened my eyes and looked directly at the anesthesiologist, who immediately said “hold on. She’s waking up.” Everyone kind of stopped what they were doing, and then I went back under.
When I came to again, I was in the recovery ICU with the doctor. I asked her how long into the surgery I woke up, and she told me I was only out 15 minutes before I needed more anesthesia. She also told me I’d scared the s**t out of her, because it was the first time anyone had ever woken up on the table in her experience. Granted, she was fairly young so I don’t think it’s all that uncommon.
She was really cool about everything though. She asked if I’d been afraid and needed someone to talk to, and I told her no. I was never scared or in pain, so as far as I was concerned it was just a weird experience during my otherwise successful surgery.
Image credits: Pillowfiend
I wasn’t put under for my wisdom teeth extraction, just given halcion to make me loopy and out of it (I wasn’t supposed to remember most of it) and of course local anesthesia. But halfway through the procedure I vaguely remember beginning to cry as I felt the dentist struggle to get part of a tooth out, and it literally felt like he was just trying to rip the damn thing out of my head. Horribly painful and traumatic. He was like, “Oh gosh you gotta tell me if it hurts!” Well I tried sir but I’m more drugged than I’ve ever been in my life and your hands are in my mouth.
Image credits: taigaturin
I had 4 wisdom teeth remove (all impacted).
Funny thing was I counted all the way to 10, looked at the Doctor and was like… uh, is this it?
Doctor was shocked, nodded for another hit and i managed to make it to 7.
Woke up during the operation with a giant vice in my face to keep my mouth open. “Hit him again!”
Woke up a second time, as he was yanking on my jaw, “What the f*ck? Hit him again!!!”
The gas wore off right as he was cleaning up.
I vaguely remember chatter during the procedure too.
Image credits: Griever114
While some patients only vaguely remember what happened when they woke up, others vividly remember specific details. Naturally, this sort of experience can be disturbing or even traumatic for some. The ASA recommends that patients speak to their physician anesthesiologist after their surgery if it happens to them. Counseling can help deal with confusion and stress.
The more the anesthesiologist knows about your health conditions, the medication that you use, your history of alcohol and drug use, and previous experiences with going under, the better they adapt and the lower the risk of anesthesia awareness. In short, the more open and honest you are with medical professionals, the better they can do their jobs.
I was having surgery to repair a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). I vividly remember waking up in the middle of it and looking up at the doctor. I looked him right in the eyes, lifted my left arm (they were working on the right side) and tapped the facemask. He nodded and I was out again.
I’ve actually had a few similar instances. I’ve got the ginger gene that makes drugs and anesthesia and such less effective. Problem is, unless I have facial hair you’d never notice I was ginger. My beard is bright red, but my hair is blonde. I have to warn doctors and dentists that they might want to up the requirements because it doesn’t work very well.
SCRAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE GRIND GRIND GRIND CRRRRRGHSLUUUUURRRRP CRRRRSCHLUUUUURRRRP SHHHHHHKKKTTTLUUUUURP…
“he’s moving a bit, would you… thanks” … ksssshhht zzzzzzzz…
I woke up partway through having all 4 wisdom teeth removed. The assistant had wrapped her arms around my forehead, the dentist had his knee on my sternum and was yanking two handed on the largest pair of pliers I have ever seen that somehow fit into my mouth. He stopped, nodded to the anesthesiologist and then thankfully I didn’t remember anything else.
Image credits: tezoatlipoca
Broke my arm (very close to the wrist) during a dirt bike accident but me being me, I was just like “naaaww, its just a sprain and it will heal”. It did heal but VERY crooked. Went in for surgery to have it broken a set straight. Mid way through surgery i’m woken up by a tugging and a muffled thud. I open my eyes to see numerous doctors and nurses pulling my arm in oposing directions and there is one doctor hitting my arm by the “breaking point” with a mallet. Next thing I knew im waking up on the recovery room. Apparently a nurse was on standby with a hardcore sedative just in case as I seemed to be initialy resisting the gas.
Image credits: Redfusion858
They were talking about buying vintage lunchboxes on eBay. I wasn’t properly awake or in pain, but I could ‘feel’/had awareness that their hands were inside me. The anesthesiologist noticed my eyes were open, and I woke up again properly when they were wheeling me into recovery.
Image credits: yokayla
I woke up during surgery to repair a shattered Humerus. My whole shoulder was dissected open and a dude was using a screwdriver and a drill to attach a steel plate to the bones pull the parts together.
Me: ahhhhh! (Screaming through O2 mask) Doc: (turning pale) I thought you were out ! Me: Im not f*cking out you stupid motherf*cking son of a b*tch. AAAhhh! This f*cking hurts ! Stop that ! Goddammit….. (continued to scream curses in five languages at the poor doc, who is looking at the anesthesiologist….) And then I was out. My wife, who was in the waiting room, said she knew it was me screaming, and really, really had to keep herself calm and not run back there and start kicking as*es.
I felt so bad at the nasty s**t I said to the poor doc that I looked him up and apologized a week or so later when I was in for a post hospital stay checkup.
Me: Um, I’m really sorry at the stuff I said to you. Doc: You remember that ? Me: Yeah, and I’m really not like that. I’m sorry. Doc: (Chuckling).. it’s OK, it happens. I’d yell too. So.. how are you ? Me: Better
Thanks again, Doc. Without you I’d have a stainless steel joint and be even more f*cked up than I am with just some screws and rivets and s**t. Or have a plain pinned up sleeve and no arm at all. Because that damage was epically bad.
Image credits: cbelt3
I woke up, felt really peaceful. Couldn’t really see anything, I think my eyes were just cracked open a bit, so I had the impression of people moving around.
Then I tried to take a breath. Couldn’t do it. All my muscles were paralyzed. I started to get air hunger so badly, my mind was racing, I was in a panic, but I could not make my lungs take in air and I couldn’t tell any of these shadowy doctors and nurses around me that I was dying. It was horrible. I think someone noticed my heart was racing because there was a sudden feeling of extra attention and alarm from the shadowy figures and I was put under again.
When I spoke with my doctor about it later he admitted there had been a bit of a problem with the anesthesiology, but that I had never been in danger. He apologized and I appreciated both that I hadnt imagined this horrible situation, and that he hadn’t tried to pretend I imagined it. My brother is a nurse and some of the crappy things he’s told me he’s seen happen in the operating room are never admitted to patients afterward, I guess because of fear of lawsuits.
Image credits: notreallyswiss
Had to have a lumpectomy done about 3-4 years ago. The anesthesiologist came in to speak to me about general and how I would be put under for the procedure, blah blah blah. Fast forward to the surgery room- I’m wheeled in, some medication is given to me through my line, I start to feel kind of loose. Enter as**ole surgeon. Anesthesiologist starts to tell her he’s about to start my general. She gives him the look of death followed by “She’s not going under for this.” He looks at her kind of funny, says no I’ve told the patient we would do general and I think that’s best for this situation. Surgeon doesn’t agree, says twilight only, I try to speak, I’m vetoed. In goes local and I wake up mid-surgery attempting to speak and lifting my head up freaking out. Anesthesiologist flips his s**t, grabs my line, in goes general. He paced through my recovery room for the next two hours waiting for me to wake up. I make eye contact as I come to, he lets out a HUGE sigh and leaves the room. Never again do I see that surgeon.
Image credits: WomanDriverAboard
I woke up when they were removing a small bone from my foot that was broken. Remember feeling them poke around in my foot so decided to take a look. Remember seeing the incision and just then, a nurse noticed me with my head up. She just lightly pushed my head back down, told me to close eyes, and the next thing I know I was in the recovery room. Pretty weird.
Image credits: mudnuka
Woke up during a form of gastric bypass in 2001. I remember feeling the worst pain of my life. I couldn’t hear anything and knew my eyes were taped shut. The only thing I could thing to do was move my hands as I could feel the restraint. I started rolling my hands as much as possible and that was it. I had gall stones the size of golf balls in my gall bladder, broke my leg during roller derby and walking on it to take myself to the hospital, and got to almost 8 cm dilated before I requested the epidural. Waking up during surgery is my 10. Nothing has come close to that pain.
Image credits: missargentina20
I was having a triple bypass. They were taking the graft artery out of my arm, and I woke up and heard the sounds of the operating room. People talking, metal clanging against metal. Heard someone say close up that arm now, and I was thinking it was over; I had made it. But I still couldn’t open my eyes, my mouth felt like it was full of tubes, and my arms were strapped down. Then, I heard the man’s voice again and he said, ‘OK, I’m going into the chest.’ Well, that got my attention. I had agreed to the open heart surgery, but I didn’t want to be awake for it. I tried moving as hard as I could to let them know I wasn’t asleep. I felt pressure on my chest, and it moved. As the pressure moved, I felt a coldness where the pressure was as he was cutting into me.
I worked as hard as I could to get moving and was able to flex my butt and leg muscles just a little bit. I started doing that in rhythm and got the gurney rocking a little bit, head to toe. The pressure stopped, and I heard, ‘This man is not asleep!’ Someone else said, ‘OH!’ In about three seconds, I was out again and didn’t wake up until I was in recovery. After I was moved to ICU and the hoses were pulled out of my throat, the doctor asked everyone to leave the room, and he asked what I remembered. I told him about when I woke up. He said the ‘art’ to heart surgery is keeping you enough under the anesthesia so you don’t know what’s going on, but not so deep that they can’t get the heart started again. I’m just glad he noticed I was awake before he started spreading ribs!
I was getting an ablation done to my heart because of an irregular heartbeat.
I woke up at apparently entirely the wrong moment because I moved a bit, and the doctor/surgeon started screaming ‘SIR!! DO NOT MOVE THIS IS A CRITICAL PART OF THE PROCEDURE’ Something like that anyway.
A nurse appeared next to me and literally held my shoulders down until they put me under again.
Was a scary 30 seconds or so.
I woke up in the middle of a root canal. I remember opening my eyes and not knowing what the hell was happening I grabbed the dentist hand and doing so I scared the life out of him he ending up screaming and yelling for the nurse to increase what ever cocktail iv I had. After he was done and I was fully awake we laughed about it and he told me I was his 1st patient to wake up in the 15 years he’s been practicing
Image credits: Jblark2010
When my father had his hip replaced, he woke up in the middle of his surgery. He said “it sounded like someone was building a house” because of all the sawing and hammering. Luckily he was still numb, so he just looked over at the anesthesiologist and said “I think I’d like to go back to sleep now”. My father said the guy looked like he s**t himself when he realized my dad was awake, and quickly put him back under.
I actually opted to stay awake during my wisdom teeth surgery because my dentist suggested it. The painkillers he kept giving me didn’t work so he had to inject directly into a nerve- that was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. But it’s really weird being awake for that surgery. The dentist took what I can only describe as a hammer and chisel and broke my teeth up into smaller pieces that he picked out, and I saw and felt the pressure of it. I also felt him sew up my gums. It wasn’t traumatizing like it would have been for other types of surgery, but I wouldn’t say it was fun either
I chose to be sedated and knocked out for an endoscope when I was 17. This was the first time I’d ever been put under, and it didn’t go so well. I now know that I have the gene redhaired and pale people get that causes us to metabolize narcotics and sedation differently — basically, it takes more drugs to knock me out. The sedation they gave me put me out for about 10 minutes. I woke up suddenly and violently during the procedure. I started kicking and punching and trying to pull out the endoscope. The doctor and nurse tried to hold me down, but I kept fighting them.
At the time I just remember thinking, Why are they so upset? I’m just laying here doing nothing. They had to give me a ton more sedative to put me out again. A couple months later when I had my wisdom teeth out at the hospital, they did the whole ‘breathe deeply and count back from 100’ thing. I got down to about 65 when they realized they needed to administer more. They said I took more than most grown adults.
I woke up when I was getting my wisdom teeth removed. I remember the doctor looking down at me and saying something along the lines of, “Oh, hello.” Before asking the nurse to put me back under.
Next thing I remember was the nurse trying to take the cotton out of my mouth but I’d swallowed it all already like a champ.
I woke up halfway through my circumcision (26, medical complications made it necessary)
Thankfully I was paralyzed from the waist down still but apparently I said “uh… guys?… I think the sleep s**t wore off…”
Two beeps and like 30 seconds later I was unconscious again.
Also holy s**t there’s a lot of blood in a d*ck during circumcision. Like… scary s**t!
I woke up during a routine colonoscopy. It felt like they were shoving a board through my intestines…the pressure was unreal. I remember I was finally able to say “please stop!” Both the nurse and the doctor’s eyes got as big as saucers, and that’s the last thing I remember. Normally, you wake up in recovery, get up and go home pretty much alert. I slept for 24 hours because of the extra bump they had to give me to put me back under to complete the colonoscopy.
Image credits: JWJ71064
I was 14, getting my elbow replaced. I woke up and started choking on the airway tube down my throat. All of the people in the OR just kept saying “it’s ok it’s ok we’re finished” Then they took the tube out and I knocked back out.
When I was in recovery, the surgeon (or someone, I was fkd up) told me I woke up halfway through. They told me my surgery was finished so I wouldn’t freak out any more than I already did.
The man asked if I’d felt anything. I just told him I felt my throat was extremely dry and I didn’t like all of those people hovering over me. He was relieved to know that I didn’t feel the half of the bones in my arm were gone.
It was a 15 hr surgery because the part they had didn’t fit and they had to get a new part flown in while I was under. I woke up while everyone was just kind of sitting around, making sure I was still under.
It wasn’t as psychically uncomfortable as it was panic-inducing. You’re out completely, then you wake up thinking you’ve been abducted by aliens.
I woke up during foot surgery–I had conscious sedation and local anesthesia in my foot. I remember feeling super chilled out. I felt like me, the surgeon, and all the other people in there were buddies. They were sawing off part of a bone and I remember thinking that it felt kinda good, like a foot massage. I asked the surgeons if I could see what they were doing and they said something like “no, go back to sleep.” I think I asked this question more than once during the surgery.
I remember waking up right after the surgery as they were preparing to transfer me to the recovery room. The surgeon said something like “haul your a*s onto this stretcher.”
Not gonna lie, it was pretty awesome.
Image credits: Allison_1derlnd