This Woman Woke Up During Surgery and It Was Awful

This Woman Woke Up During Surgery and It Was Awful

© Getty This Woman Woke Up During Surgery and It Was Awful It sounds like something straight out of a horror movie: A woman goes in for surgery, only to wake up - paralyzed and unable to move - right before the doctor makes his first incision.

But this is exactly what happened to Donna Penner when she went in for an exploratory laparoscopy in 2008, and she's decided to share her story in order to raise awareness of this horrifying possibility for others. As she writes in an essay for BBC, Penner had been experiencing unusually heavy periods at the age of 44, and went in for the surgery in order to make sure everything was OK. As she explains, the surgery required three to four small incisions in the abdomen, which the surgeon would then push instruments through in order to "look around." While the operation started off fine, it wasn't long before things took an absolutely terrifying turn.

After getting getting prepped for the surgery, an anesthesiologist gave her an intravenous drip then told her to "take a deep breath." She immediately fell asleep, only to wake up soon after - assuming the surgery was over.

"I was lying there feeling a little medicated, but at the same time I was also alert and enjoying that lazy feeling of waking up and feeling completely relaxed," she wrote. "That changed a few seconds later when I heard the surgeon speak. They were moving around and doing their things and then all of a sudden I heard him say, 'Scalpel please.'"

Penner immediately started to panic.

"There was nothing I could do," she wrote for the BBC. "I had been given a paralytic, which is a common thing they do when work on the abdomen because it relaxes the abdominal muscles so they don't resist as much when you're cutting through them."

"Unfortunately the general anesthetic hadn't worked, but the paralytic had," she continued. "I panicked. I thought this cannot be happening. So I waited for a few seconds, but then I felt him make the first incision. I don't have words to describe the pain - it was horrific."

Because the paralytic had worked, Penner was unable to move at all - and couldn't even open her eyes to signal to the surgeon she was conscious. Despite wanting to sit up, she said "it felt like somebody was sitting on me, weighing me down." She couldn't move, she couldn't speak, and she "couldn't even make the tears to cry."

"At that point, I could hear my heart-rate on the monitor: It kept going up higher and higher," she wrote. "I was in a state of sheer terror. I could hear them working on me, I could hear them talking. I felt the surgeon make those incisions and push those instruments through my abdomen."

"I felt him moving my organs around as he explored," she continued. "I heard him say things like, 'Look at her appendix, it's really nice and pink, colon looks good, ovary looks good.'"

As if that weren't already horrifying enough, when she was finally able to twitch her foot in an attempt to convey she was awake, one of the doctors simply steadied her without saying a word - and Penner was forced to endure the entire hour-and-a-half surgery while conscious.

It gets even worse: Because she had been paralyzed for the surgery, she had also been intubated with a breathing machine, which continued giving her seven breaths per minute despite her elevated heart rate. As the paralytic wore off, she began to use her tongue to move the breathing tube to try and again alert someone she was conscious - but instead, the anesthesiologist took it as a sign she was able to breathe on her own again, and yanked it out.

"I lay there thinking, 'Now I'm really in trouble,'" she wrote. "I'd already said mental goodbyes to my family because I didn't think I was going to pull through. Now I couldn't breathe. I could hear the nurse yelling at me. She was on one side saying, 'Breathe Donna, breathe.' But there was nothing I could do."

At this point, she had an out-of-body experience that she says took away all of her fear and pain.

"I'm of Christian faith and I can't say I went to heaven, but I wasn't on Earth either," she wrote. "There was a presence with me. I always say that was God with me because there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was there beside me. And then I heard a voice saying, 'Whatever happens, you're going to be OK.'"

Soon after, she snapped back to her body, and the doctors put a manual resuscitator over her mouth, forcing air back into her lungs. She had survived one of the most terrifying situations imaginable.

Nine years later, Penner is still coping with the trauma of the incident, but hopes sharing her story will help raise awareness of the possibility of a similar incident happening to someone else. You can read the rest of her essay for the BBCright here.

Follow Gina on Twitter.

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Gloria Sewell
Gloria Sewell
Feb 16
God was with you
jene gomez
jene gomez
Feb 16
@Gloria Sewell
God everywhere with us and love us all 😊😊 and god bless you all
Eva Rodriguez
Eva Rodriguez
Feb 16
holy wow that's traumatizing! omg !! I can't imagine that's a nightmare! so glad you made it through yes God was with you so sad you had to go through that
BIG D KIDD W
BIG D KIDD W
Feb 16
that wasnt god...that was just surging brain activity as you were "dying" im a man of god myself and i hate it when people claim to heve "out of body experiences" and claim to "talk to God" enough with the drama
Rocio Cortez
Rocio Cortez
Feb 16
@BIG D KIDD W
Obviously you are not a man of God like you claim to be sir. With the Lord beside one self, anything is possible ANYTHING.....
Deborah Purgason
Deborah Purgason
Feb 17
@BIG D KIDD W
Who are you to judge if and When God speaks to someone or how. Apparently You've not experience that " still small voice" or God's speaking to you.
Sharon Hickman
Sharon Hickman
Feb 17
@BIG D KIDD W
YOU'RE SATAN IN THE FLESH. I'M GLAD GOD WAS WITH HER, AND PRAY YOU TRY TO FIND OUT ABOUT HIM, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! HEAVEN IS REAL AND SO IS HELL!
ImmaDoME Checkmate
ImmaDoME Checkmate
Feb 16
OMG this is awful my heart pour out to you
Nickki Pinckney
Nickki Pinckney
Feb 16
can't even imagine!
Connie Baldwin
Connie Baldwin
Feb 16
I've had the same thing happen. unfortunately it happens more than people realize.
Rose Eggers
Rose Eggers
Feb 16
wow that's an experience only thing I did was wake up a couple of times and slapped my doctor's hand and told him to quit he was hurting me
Spotted_Fire16
Spotted_Fire16
Feb 16
f**k them!
Willie Mae Bivens
Willie Mae Bivens
Feb 16
I exsperience the same thing. as she describe it, I actually can feel that pain as I cringe. only thing helped me through it, was that a nurse saw tears coming down the side of my eye. I heard everything, she said OH MY GOD SHES NOT UNDER!!!. then I heard, grab the. then i went out. very painful, I pray no one ever have to feel that kind of pain.
Minnesota Wild Fan
Minnesota Wild Fan
Feb 16
@Willie Mae Bivens
I'm so sorry that happened to you
Karen Walls
Karen Walls
Feb 16
O My God That's Exactly Why they need to Stop Practicing Medical Period That was for Delivering Babies Then They Went Crazy Mad And Make People Sick Instead Of Better Lord Will You Touch Her Body and Heal Her
Karen Walls
Karen Walls
Feb 16
It Go to Show The Doctors do not Don't Know their Job and What The Are Doing Fire All The Bad Doctor's Get Rich Off Medic Care and The Insurance Company
LINDA PARKER
LINDA PARKER
Feb 16
I experienced the sensation of being cut during surgery but I was able to tell my DOCTOR I still can feel the incisions. Immedately he had the anethesiologist put me under. I had no more pain.
Kenneth Brown
Kenneth Brown
Feb 16
Hell Naw I would have sued the f**k out of them
Mary Moreno
Mary Moreno
Feb 17
OMG!!! 😲😲😲
sexygray62
sexygray62
Feb 17
Eva..you just said it all for me!!!!!. what horrible story!!!!. Thank You God for your "FOOT PRINTS"!!!!!!!!!----❤💕🙌👌👍🌷
Eva Rodriguez
Eva Rodriguez
Feb 17
@sexygray62
Amen!
sexygray62
sexygray62
Feb 17
then, after giving God his PRAISE...I'D SUE LIKE CRAZY!!!!!!!---EVERY DAMN BODY!!!!!!
Rosa Barnes
Rosa Barnes
Feb 17
I know the feeling oh too well of waking up before they started me to breathing on my own. I tried my best to help them start me back to breathing. I heard them talking and the doctor asking, "anything yet"? They tried again. I don't know what they they were doing trying to get me breathing again. All I knew was, I feel air bubbles in my stomach as they did what ever they were doing. Lying there not breathing, can't open your eyes, but hearing everything being said, is a scary feeling, trust me. When I told my co workers about it, they were talking about suing the hospital. I was so glad to be alive and well, I didn't think about suing. Just thank God for bringing me out. Yesssss!!
Dylan Haggins
Dylan Haggins
Feb 17
that shows that god is in control
Remi Remi
Remi Remi
Feb 17
I had this happen as well,was horrifying! They didn't believe me until I told them all I heard and saw. Never want that to happen to me again!
Abby Sanders
Abby Sanders
Feb 17
god was with you