The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

14.5.2022 Can Humans Hibernate?

“I'm afraid we shall waste an awful lot of time."

"Don't worry," answered Snufkin, "we shall have wonderful dreams, and when we wake up it'll be spring.” Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll

Can humans hibernate? This was not what I was expecting in a TED Talk!

When the talk on hibernation began, and the presenter was talking about hibernation in animals, I began to wonder how it would benefit me to effectively take a week of hibernation. To sit quietly at home, or perhaps in a beach hut, or a cabin in a forest, and take the time to be still. Perhaps that’s a symptom of feeling as though I’m permanently on the run, and the relentlessness that Covid-19 seems to have forced upon so many of us.

But the talk moved on to talk about hibernation in humans, and how that might change the medical world. In particular, researchers are looking at the possibility of creating a hibernation state for patients who are waiting for organ transplants. The talk reports that around 50 people a day die in the US and Europe waiting for an organ transplant. The presenter discussed a vision of hospital wards of patients in a state of hibernation known as torpor, literally waiting for their transplants. Shutting the body down to its essential functions.

He discussed the case of a gentleman known as Uncle Toby, reported on by neurologist Oliver Sacks. This man’s body did, in fact, seem to go into a state of hibernation for seven years. His family cared for him, and one day his body came out of hibernation. Sadly, he died a few months later from cancer, since when his body came out of hibernation, so did his cancer.

You learn something new every day, and this is an entirely new idea for me, the idea that our bodies could shut down for a period of time – days, weeks, months, years, or even decades. The possibilities are immense, and I find them really quite scary. Imagine if I could hibernate for 20 years. What would I find when I woke up? I’m not sure that I want to think about it!

What about you?

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity, and compassion