What is Coma?
A coma is a state of unconsciousness where you’re incapable of sensing or responding to external stimuli or internal need, resulting in a documented Glasgow Coma Scale of 6 or less, for a continuous period of at least 72 hours.
A coma is different from sleep in that when in a coma the patient can not be wakened through either physical or auditory stimulation. The depth of the coma can be ascertained by the differing levels of unresponsiveness and unconsciousness which in turn is determined by how little or how much of the brain is actually functioning. The level of a coma is measured in the medical profession by what is known as the 'Glasgow Coma Scale'. A measurement based on observations of eye opening, movement and speech. Therefore patients in a deep coma will have:
- Unable to open their eye(s)
- Only open their eye(s) to pain
- Make either incomprehensible or no sounds
- Demonstrate no response to requests to move
Some level of response may be noticed in patients who are in a lighter coma. Some may even appear to be awake at first glance but are considered to be in a coma when they can't respond to their environment. The Glasgow Coma Scale is used as part of the evaluation of a patient’s condition but it does not help in any diagnosis as to the cause of the condition.
Life insurance companies offer trauma cover to people aged between 17 and 59 years of age. After 59 years the policy can be renewed by the policy holder right up to the policy anniversary date prior to the insured’s 80th birthday. However after the age of 70 the trauma cover will reduce to one of 'Loss of Independent Existence' cover. Trauma cover, that covers a coma situation, will pay a lump sum if the insured survives for 14 days after the coma has been diagnosed.
The brain is a large organ with many important parts. It consists of two main portions known as the right and left cerebral hemispheres. These portions contain the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes, which control thought, speech, sensation and movement. The cerebellum is located under the cerebral hemispheres and it is here where coordination and balance is handled. The brain stem controls the body's automatic responses which include breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. Also within the brain stem is the reticular activating system (RAS) and this is the miraculous on-off switch of the whole brain. To be awake the RAS must be functioning, at least in one cerebral hemisphere. When consciousness is lost either the RAS has shut down or both cerebral hemispheres have ceased working.
The RAS will shut down when one of the following two situations occur:
- A pre-death event. This occurs when increased swelling in the brain pushes down on the brain stem and causes it to fail. In order for the two cerebral hemispheres to fail the blood supply to the brain must be compromised in some manner or the brain tissue must have been attacked by some toxic substance.
- Brain stem stroke. This occurs when cells in the brain stem are deprived of oxygen and glucose that are normally supplied by the blood flow. This can occur in two ways; either the blood supply is cut off, or when bleeding in the area takes place and structures fail.
In short a coma is usually the result of a trauma that causes:
- Bleeding or swelling
- The brain receiving inadequate oxygen or blood sugar
- Some poisonous substance is affecting the brain tissue
A life insurance policy that contains trauma cover, or a standalone trauma insurance, will give the insured a lump sum payment following the diagnosis of the policy holder as being in a coma. It is not dependent on death having to occur. Payment will also be made regardless of your prognosis that may see you recovering to the level that you may be able to continue with some form of work once out of the coma.
This type of insurance cover is particularly important because statistics show that any one of us can be affected by a traumatic occurrence at some time during our lifetime prior to our eventual death. The costs associated with suffering such an illness can be enormous to a family and if not covered can be financially crippling. The result of such a happening may end up by not being life threatening but it will most certainly be life changing.