The Woman Who Slept for 32 Years

Andrei Tapalaga

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Karolina Olsson, who was in coma between 1876 and 1908, one of the longest periods ever.Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The universe is filled with bizarre tales that, even now, defy explanation, yet which are attested to by historical evidence, such as the story of Karolina Olsson who slept for half of her life. Karolina was born in 1862 in Sweden and lived a normal life along with her four other brothers, living on a remote island in Sweden named Okno. A childhood of laughter, with no health issues or sleep deprivation. In 1876, 14-year-old Karolina suffered a head injury after tripping over and falling on ice while on her way home from school.

Karolina went to go to sleep on the day of the accident (February 22, 1876) and did not awaken for the following 32 years (11,730 days) until she was 46 years old. The Olsson family was underprivileged and resided on a small island that had no access to medical care. Since Karolina's father was simply a subsistence fisherman, traveling off the island was expensive. Despite this, the inhabitants of the isolated island where they were living rallied to their cause and raised money to send a doctor there.

Doctors became quite perplexed at this point and continue to be so today as a result of this case. Doctors do not think the patient was in a coma since typically a person would go into one immediately following the impact of an accident; instead, they think it was something else. To further comprehend what transpired, the doctor who traveled to the island examined the girl for many days.

The girl appeared to be dead but was actually still alive, and this was confirmed by a startling truth. Karolina's fingernails and hair didn't appear to be growing in any way. She was also not losing weight despite just consuming two glasses of milk per day in her diet.

After six years, in 1882, they made the decision to relocate Karolina to Oskarshamn on the doctor's advice for therapeutic treatment with electroshock, as a last-ditch effort by the medical community to revive her.

Karolina was discharged from the hospital a month later, and when her health didn't improve, her parents brought her home. The doctor informed the family that there was nothing further they could do for her but wait and pray for a miracle. She was given a paper with her diagnosis when she was discharged from the hospital. According to the note, Karolina had some sort of dementia-related paralysis (dementia paralytica).

Strangely, despite the fact that her body was in this condition, she was still conscious and could respond to everything going on around her. When one of her brothers passed away years later, her parents became aware of this. Karolina was sobbing, yet she was still sleeping. In contrast to other mental situations when patients just lay in bed all day, eat very little, and say only a few words, Karolina's condition was medically determined to be one of coma or profound slumber.

Many people were eager to hear Karolina's side of the tale and were thrilled to hear the news of her waking. Numerous inquisitive people, including reporters and medical professionals, visited the family cabin in Oknö.

Karolina said that during her 32 years of slumber, she was unable to recall anything. The only difference was that she slept 11,730 nights instead of just one. It was the same as going to sleep for one night and waking up in the blink of an eye. Karolina continued to live for another 40 years without experiencing any health issues. 1950 saw her passing on April 5th. Doctors still do not fully comprehend this puzzling situation today. No similar cases have been yet recorded or identified.

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