People experience renewed hope when a critically-ill loved one suddenly begins to show signs of recovery after being down with life-threatening ailments.
However, not all sudden recoveries are permanent as some patients pass away after days or weeks, thereby throwing their loved ones into despair and shattering their hope. This phenomenon is known as “Terminal Lucidity.”
Terminal Lucidity was coined by a German biologist, Michael Nahm, who defined the term as “the (re-)emergence of normal or unusually enhanced mental abilities in dull, unconscious, or mentally ill patients shortly before death, including considerable elevation of mood and spiritual affectation, or the ability to speak in a previously unusual spiritualised and elated manner.”
Shedding more light on this phenomenon, a medical doctor at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Abiola Akinniran said there is currently no acceptable medical explanation for terminal lucidity.
“It varies in different people. Sometimes, it could last for just some minutes, sometimes it could last for days. In rare cases, two weeks.
“As a medical practitioner, I am used to such occurrence in patients but their families have hard time coming to terms with it. Some even accuse us of neglecting such persons, hence leading to their deaths.
“It is advisable for medical practitioners to educate the loved ones of critically-ill patients to avoid such awkward situations. Most of them see it as a miracle when it occurs because they are not aware of what terminal lucidity is.
“When families of sick people are educated on what it is, it makes it easier for them to deal with their loss, instead of blaming the death on neglection, as common in the Nigerian society,” Dr Akinniran said.
Narrating her experience, a teacher, Miss Adesola Salaudeen said she had witnessed terminal lucidity occur in her late mother but thought it was a “miraculous recovery.”
“She had been down with a stroke for several weeks, with no hope of recovery in sight. We had to bring her back home from the hospital because we were prepared for the worst.
“One morning, I entered her room to find her sitting up by herself, beaming with smiles. I called my other siblings to come witness the miracle as she could move her arms and legs again.
“For three days straight, she ate and had her baths unaided. She even spoke to distant family members over the phone. The evening of the third night, I knocked on her door to come have dinner, she did not answer. I touched her and got no response. I called a nurse that lived in the neighbourhood and she confirmed that my mother had died.
“I am indifferent about the experience because while I am happy that she spent her last days talking to us, I think it made her death more painful because we had accepted our fate when her condition had deteriorated at the hospital. It gave me unnecessary hope that my mother’s recovery was permanent,” she said.
An hairstylist simply identified as Mrs Owoeye said she believed that terminal lucidity in sick loved ones would give their families the opportunity to hear their last wishes or useful information.
“My mother died a natural death at 76. She had been in a critical condition at the hospital but regained consciousness for some hours. I suspected something was wrong when she started asking about relatives she had cut off due to one reason or the other, especially the ones she had vowed never to have anything to do with again. She said she wanted to make peace with them.
“She talked to over seven of them and prayed with them. I confided in my husband that I had a feeling that my mother wanted to make peace before kicking the bucket. He argued that it was not so, given her energetic behaviour within those hours. He insisted that it was a recovery.
“My mother passed on, two hours after the last call. For some reason, I was not surprised when I got the call. I even told my husband that I knew there was something off about the way she woke up all of a sudden to ask for food and her insistence on talking to those relatives of ours, some whom she stopped talking to several years ago,” Mrs Owoeye said.
An internet user, JustJenny who is a nurse narrated her experience with a family whose breadwinner woke up suddenly woke up from a coma.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this phenomenon. The most recent was a couple of weeks ago, when a comatose patient I’d cared for several times suddenly woke up, looked at his wife and family gathered round, smiled and said a few words.
“They thought it was a miracle. I tried gently to discourage this thinking, but to no avail, and they were genuinely shocked when he slipped back into the coma and died an hour later,” she said.