Keeping conscious when dying?

In pretty much any movie you can mention which includes a scene in which one character is dying in front of another there is the inevitable “Keep you eyes open such and such!” or “Stay with me such and such”.

Artistic license and emotional subtext aside, to me this implies that keeping conscious is more likely to keep you alive until aid comes.

It seems more likely that the opposite would occur, that you would be using up energy and increasing blood flow which may hinder later efforts to save your life.

So, should I be in said life or death situation, should I do my best to stay awake and utter something meaningful? Or shut up and mention it in hospital?

A girlfriend in high school had an accident on a moped* and wound up with a mild concussion. She was told she should stay awake. I still don’t know why that was, but every time I see the scene in a movie you’re talking about, it makes me think: oh, if they have a concussion and fall unconscious, they might die.

  • My moped, but that’s beside the point.

I read this threat title as “keeping conscious when driving” and thought “well, I thought we all knew that was a good idea…”

IIRC there is a relationship between injuries that will make you lost consciousness and ones that will kill you but, for any given injury, staying conscious is harmful. I forget whether I read that in a reliable source, though.

I get the whole concussion thing and staying awake, more to monitor lucidity for any possible brain injuries.

I had the same thing with a horse riding accident where I ended up with amnesia, but I don’t think that was really a life and death situation.

Perhaps there is confirmation bias since the ones that do successfully remain conscious when asked have a better chance of survival, but only because they were uninjured enough to remain conscious. Those that did not can be partially blamed on not making an “effort” to stay conscious even if effort had nothing to do with it.

It’s not so much that staying conscious will *keep *you alive, as that losing consciousness means you may be a tiny bit closer to death - that is, it’s time for the first responder to start panicking a bit if he has no training. So it’s real life worry and cinematic short hand for “ohshitohshitoshit, this isn’t just a flesh wound!”

I agree with the cinematic shorthand. Like a cough is shorthand for “consumption,” “black death,” or “lung cancer,” depending on the time period of the drama. One of these days, I’m going to write a story where a character has a persistent cough all through and then gets hit by a truck. :slight_smile:

My dream is to see a woman between the ages of 15-40 throwing up with the stomach flu. :stuck_out_tongue:

You’d think that, wouldn’t you. But we have helpful roadsigns in bright orange around here with the advice to, “Stay Alert”.
Just in case you forgot, I suppose.

No, it’s because the world needs more lerts.

Doh! I’m sure it’s been answered before at SD, but I can’t find it…
But I don’t just think it’s a Hollywood thing – most sites on first aid mention keeping the patient alive as important. They don’t mention why though…

IIRC, one of the major reasons is so that the patient can still (potentially) tell you where it hurts, if there’s any deterioration in their condition and any medical information.

I doubt any of this really applies to the classic Hollywood gunshot wound. But in this case you need them to be awake so that they can tell the hero something motivating, with their dying breath.

:smiley: I’m preserving this “typo” forever by quoting it, just in case you edit it. It’s just too wonderful. (Although we all know you meant “alert” or “awake”.)

You get my vote for thread winner.

That is one great typo Doctor… :slight_smile:

I have here a source that explains:

(about 2/3 way down in LOC description)

Though the site seems pretty authentic, it doesn’t continue to explain the cause for this (though, I’ve never been accused of being too thorough :wink: )

Actually, it wasn’t a typo: I was making a political statement about euthanasia.
Seriously though: :smack:

It’s poorly worded; a correlation, not a cause. Blunt head trauma that produces a prolonged loss of consciouness is frequently associated with permanent damage, whereas brief LOC, or none with repetitive questioning and retrograde amnesia are common signs of a concussion that will completely resolve.

“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be…avenged!”:smiley:

Would slipping into unconsciousness not be more likely to relax the body, rather than fighting to stay alive?
AFAIR there is some effect of will-power.

I have always been concerned that the patient would vomit and aspirate something nasty, which would cause a much bigger problem than we had before…

Ok, I have to tell the story now. In college, a girl attempted suicide. She didn’t live in the room next to me, but she thought she did, much to the chagrin of the Korean exchange student who lived in the room next to me… Of course, the exchange student knocked on my door immediately after I thought, “I am so bored…”

So, the girl was obviously altered, and I couldn’t get anything out of the exchange student, who had lost all powers of English at that point because some strange girl was freaking out in her room…

I managed to find out that she had taken a bunch of bad pills (can’t remember what, anymore, but she took a lot). So I sent a bystander to call 911. I sat the patient on the bed and tried to explain to the exchange student what was happening…

The patient passed out, at that moment, and I thought, “ohshitohshitohshit,” and sent another girl to get some nail polish remover (because I watch soap operas, damnit!) and I held it under her nose to revive her. Just then, the ambulance crew showed up, and they were totally pissed at me, in spite of my explanation (that I was afraid she’d hurl and choke if I let her stay passed out) that I used nail polish remover to wake her up. But WTF? Who had smelling salts handy in 1994?

We found the very large, nearly empty bottle of vodka in her bag after they took her into protective custody, put her in a straight jacket, and took her to the hospital.

Now this is getting into MPSIMS, but I ran into the girl later, and she said, “Don’t I know you?” hello, awkward, so I reminded her what had happened… She didn’t have any memory of that night (no wonder, with all the vodka) but she remembered me from kindergarten - and we were there 13 years later, at a school with 35000 students, and I happened to be in the room next to the room she tried to kill herself in.


L & k,

I think this is the crux of the movie myth. I do not really have a factual response but I think the idea of the “will to live” is grossly exaggerated in the movies, as though you can overcome all that internal bleeding, organ failure, brain damage, oxygen deprivation by sheer force of will.