TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) – Tammy Patton says she's been petrified since she woke up during a routine surgery and was able to feel everything even after she was anesthetized.
She says the operation, which took place nine years ago, was a simple surgery to remove scar tissue from an ankle injury. She says she was told she would not be put to sleep, but wouldn't be able to feel a thing.
However, Patton says she experienced a phenomenon called itra-operative awareness or anesthesia awareness. It's something that happens to 2 out of every 1,000 patients and simply put is when a patient's anesthesia wears off before surgery is finished.
"I could feel them cutting -- of course you can hear them talking and you can smell stuff burning," said Patton. "It was a horrendous pain."
Patton says her anesthesia wore off before the surgeon was finished cutting into her ankle. "My eyes were open. I kept trying to get somebody's attention. I had tears running down my cheeks (and) they were wiping the tears off."
She says no one noticed she was feeling every cut the surgeon made.
"My body just felt like it was full of lead," Patton said. "You could feel things, but you just couldn't move. It was like you had a semi sitting on top of you couldn't move."
While this phenomenon is rare, heart and trauma patients are more susceptible.
Dr. Todd Cooperider, the head of the anesthesiology department at Toledo Hospital*, says in cases like Patton's, patients are "paralyzed because of the muscle relaxants that we use during a lot of procedures."
Cooperider says the medical community is aggressively addressing intra-operative awareness, but there are things patients should do to limit their risk. First, list all medications before surgery. Some may make your body metabolize things more quickly. Also, make sure to outline your family history and medical risk factors.
Tammy Patton has done these things for every surgery she's had since finding herself awake on the operating table. And she has had 15 additional operations without feeling a thing.
*Patton's surgery did not take place at Toledo Hospital nor is Dr. Cooperider connected to her case in any way.