It’s interesting to watch the press parallel what happens in ICU units every day. A person in a coma is so still that any small change is widely reported. When Ariel Sharon moves his left hand, it makes headlines across the world; when a family member in a coma moves a limb, it sets off a spree of phone calls.
Doctors are often quick to point out that such movements from the comatose are often involuntary and can occur regularly, so the excitement some people feel over seeing motion from the comatose is often derailed. The truth is that neuroscientifically, we know very little about comas and their relationship to consciousness, so, more than anything, a comatose person is the medical embodiment of mystery and enigma.
We do know that as a coma continues, the level of impairment tends to magnify. Now that Ariel Sharon has been in a coma almost two weeks, Israel isn’t expecting him to return to his job for at least several months. Sharon’s coma has cast a cloud of uncertainty over world politics, and in a literal sense, thousands of other families must find their way through the same cloud that hovers near their comatose kin.