I have always assumed that Rick was in the hospital for about 3 weeks. Several factors led me to this conclusion: The length of his beard; the fact that the IV bag was empty, but he didn't die of dehydration; the dead, completely dried out flowers on the table; the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies in and around the hospital; the timing of Lori's pregnancy; and so on.

But the answer to another question, apparently written by someone with medical training, made me think that a person with such training might be able to provide a more concrete answer, based on the visual clues in the hospital scenes.

Rick appears to have been receiving a maintenance IV of possibly 0.9 normal saline or Lactated Ringers to keep him hydrated due to fluid loss or possibly a hypertonic solution to decrease intracranial pressure if his coma resulted from respiratory failure. His medical condition would have been stablized prior to the ZA because he is not connected to a vent or any critical drips. The bag's volume appears to be 1000 ml and the rate of administration would be generally 50ml/hr for a man of Rick's size. This bag would take approximately 20 hours to complete before hanging a new bag.

He is not receiving tube feeding. He has no peg tube and no nasogastric tube to receive liquid calories, protein, fats and carbs. There is no feeding pump connected to the IV pole. He has no secondary IV bag or antibiotic hanging with the primary bag in the event of sepsis from his gunshot wound.

Also, Rick's coma probably did not result directly from the GSW. Comas unrelated to head trauma can be caused by metabolic abnormalities or they can be medically induced in patients who have suffered respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilation. An induced coma would be done by a Propofol drip through a central IV line. When these drips are stopped it only takes minutes for the patient to awaken.

The scene with Shane standing over Rick with the flowers makes it hard to determine how Rick is ventilated but there is no IV sedative hanging on the pole behind him and later Rick abruptly wakes up with only a nasal cannula in his nose. In a real world scenario Rick needs to wake up very soon to survive. One to two days after the ancillary staff have left the hospital.

So says someone who knows about medical treatment. I, on the other hand, don't even know if hospital staff would bother to shave a man in a coma, a question which could offer some insight into how long Rick's hospital stay was.

The wiki for TWD has a timeline for the show, in which it is said that Shane visited Rick on day 14 after the outbreak began, and that Rick woke up on day 59. This seems to be absolutely impossible, since Shane's visit coincided with the hospital's fall, and that would mean that Rick survived for 45 days without water; a difficult feat under any circumstances, but an impossibility in the heat of a summer in Georgia.

The show adds an even more formidable obstacle to the equation. In episode 5 of season one, Dr. Jenner at the CDC says:

It's day 194 since Wildfire was declared, and day 63 since the disease abruptly went global

This is extremely puzzling, because when Rick wakes up, he clearly knows nothing about the outbreak. When he was shot, he and Shane were chatting quite normally, and there was absolutely no indication that people were being devoured by zombies elsewhere in the country. One might expect that first responders like Rick and Shane would have been informed of something as important as the outbreak. So is the reason for their apparent ignorance that Rick was shot before the outbreak began, or were they in the dark because they simply weren't told about it?

[An additional tidbit of information can be gleaned from the promo for the new series Fear The Walking Dead, which is apparently set on the West Coast during the first days of the outbreak. While we don't know anything with certainty, the description of the show seems to suggest that the outbreak began in the U.S., which only makes the issue of why Rick didn't know about the crisis that much more confusing.]

Is there any way to determine how long Rick was in the hospital?

A video and some pictures of the relevant scene:

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  • Initial observations: In the picture of Shane's visit, Rick is almost clean shaven; when he wakes up, his stubble is considerably longer. However, his hair doesn't seem to have grown between the two points.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 4:54
  • Also, it doesn't appear that they shaved his belly before surgery, which is kind of weird.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 4:55
  • That's only about 10 day growth on his face
    – user001
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 10:51
  • FWIW, the petals haven't fallen off of the dead flowers just yet, so not a "super long" time, but hardly conclusive at any rate for putting an upper bound on this time limit.
    – Chris O
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 3:52

5 Answers 5


TL;DR: Rick seems to be out for about 4-5 weeks in both the TV show and the comic.

Dave Erickson, the showrunner for Fear the Walking Dead, got a word-of-god answer on this from series creator Robert Kirkman.

In his interview with Tech Insider, Erickson said:

"Robert has said for him, the coma, Rick was probably out four to five weeks," he continued. "If you count the days of season one of our show, we’re probably around week three [by the end of the season]. So ... the discovery will continue. Our characters will be up to speed, and they will know that the world has changed and the apocalypse has come, but there’s still going to be a lot of real estate to explore."

This lines up pretty well with the evidence we see in both the comics and the TV show, despite the fact that we are rarely given exact dates or timeframes in either..

First off, let's discuss the timeframe we do specifically know.

In Wildfire (S01E05), Dr. Jenner says,

It's day 194 since Wildfire was declared

Unfortunately, there is some debate regarding just how long the events of Season 1 took. But we know that it's been roughly 6 months from the time the outbreak hit until the end of the season.

Let's look further.

In the pilot, Morgan says,

Gas and light have been down for maybe a month.

This is a bit helpful, but we still don't know how long gas and light were operational before they shut down.

We do get a hint about the timeframe since the hospital was evacuated without ever really noticing it.

Notice that the lights are on.

don't dead open inside

But Morgan said that the gas and lights have been out for a while. That means that the hospital was running on a generator. That makes sense.

A quick search tells us that hospital generators can run about a day or so unattended.

This doesn't make much sense though, as it means that the hospital would have had to be refilling the generator daily for almost a month. That's a lot of fuel to stockpile, especially with the apocalypse occurring.

Ugh. OK. So, the show really doesn't give us solid info. What about the comic? Here we get a little more help.

In the comics, Morgan says that the media shut down after "a few weeks" and that they then started telling people to leave.

fireside chat get out!

We're not told how long it's been since the power went out, but they seem to be eating/talking by the light of a hurricane lamp.

shovels to the head aren't a nice way to greet people

When Rick meets Glenn, Glenn makes a comment indicating that it's been about a month.

Where've you been for the past month?

where've you been?

But that's just an off the cuff remark, right?

Donna makes a similar comment when they get to the camp.

That's the best news I've heard all month!

what a month!

Rick discusses what happened at the hospital with Lori.

They said people were going to stay at the hospital when they evacuated. From what you told me... they must have abandoned the hospital less than a week after we left.

everyone abandoned rick

So, it was "a few weeks" before the media shut down and told everyone to leave town. It was then less than a week from the time Lori, Shane, and Carl left until the hospital was abandoned.

Now, in the comics, we never see lights on at the hospital for sure, so we're back to not knowing exactly how long Rick was abandoned at the hospital, but the power is out and the facts regarding how long generators can run still applies. We've also got enough anecdotal evidence to put them at roughly a month from the outbreak until Rick wakes up.

  • Great answer. +1. I'm enough of an obsessive weirdo about TWD that I spent quite some time watching the first season and figuring out how long it took. The answer, as I see it, is 5 days. See the second paragraph of my answer to the question you linked scifi.stackexchange.com/a/93988/44025
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 6:09
  • I also read the comics, also obsessively. Unfortunately, we don't know how well the two versions of events sync up with each other - probably not very well, since Jenner said it has been over 6 months, and the comics suggest only a month. I was just wondering if the visual clues in Rick's hospital room on the show might provide a conclusive answer about the timeline.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 6:12
  • Strictly limiting ourselves to the show, it would help to know what the hell "wildfire" actually means. The first case of the disease? The first major epidemic of it? The escape of a disease from the CDC or something? 131 days seems like an awfully long time for the disease to spread before it goes global. And it is very strange that Rick apparently knew nothing about it before he was shot, unless the shooting happened over 194 days before Jenner's statement
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 6:23
  • 1
    Well, the lights being on in the show indicates that the hospital was abandoned pretty recently. That, plus the IV mentioned in the answer you've already referenced, the wilted flowers, and Rick's stubble are pretty much our only visual clues in the show.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 6:24
  • That's why I was thinking that a medical professional might be able to shed some light on the issue. The guy who wrote the answer I quoted seemed to know what he was talking about. According to him, if Rick hadn't woken up within two days of the hospital being abandoned, he would never have woken up at all. The idea that Rick spent over a month alone without water or food is ridiculous- no one can survive a month in the summer heat in Georgia with no water. I just don't know if we're expected to believe that Rick is immune to dehydration, or that he was only alone for a few days.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 6:39

Ok so how long was Rick in coma? Over a month, how long he was without fluids? Only few days.

Wildfire was declared 194 according dr.Jenner, BUT this declaration was unofficial just among scientists and CIA. Like with other great infections, particular doctors/scientists know more BEFORE general public. It was 63 days it went global, but in small towns it was not obvious as well as in Atlanta, so when Rick was shot, Wildfire was global few days, yet no one paid attention enough at the time. Shane was in hospital with flowers 2-3 days later, Lori and Carl a day later after Shane.

Then sh.t slowly start hittin' the fan, Army came to close the area, and at that point everything was still under control. At this time it was a month Rick was in coma. Then as civilisation was collapsing, supply chain has been interrupted, no gas, no nothing. Army was about to leave this place, it was 1 month and few days since Rick was shot. They cleared Hospital but not entirely, skipped Ricks room with Shane and few other possibly (Gale?). About this time all bad things Gale was reffering to happened, she stayed in hospital hidden, and she took care about everyone who was still there in the hospital until he/she decided that Gale should end their missery. She took care about Rick occasionaly, then two people came (Oath episodes) and she was shot by the guy for killing his friend. The guy left hospital writting the "Dont dead, open inside" on Cafeteria doors :)

This was month and almost 2 weeks since Rick is in Coma. Everything fits: -Rick woke up next day, 1-2 day without care, alone in Hospital.(managable to survive that long) -Gale dead already -Caffeteria closed with written message in place, no walkers inside halls -Army already went out, Shane already left, generator reserves in Hospital are being slowly depleted( blinking lights) -nurse in hall didnt turn b/c was hit in head then it was half eaten by walkers just few days before Rick woke up, Gale mentioned she is not able to secure entire hospital - it was almost over month since no gas/ no electricity in town happened, but hospital had reserve system and military helped at the beginning of the outbreak - after month and few days flowers died

  • Paragraph breaks would make this more readable...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 12:16
  • Yes you're right , my bad. :)
    – user52632
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 13:16

Do you include the info on the web episodes? Because on the hospital one of the crazy ladies said she been there a few months since the outbreak and why she never saw Rick? Because that was before Rick woke up since at the end of the episodes they wrote the famous

"don't open, dead inside".


What i think is he had help a month before this all happened and then when everyone evacuated they unhooked the hopeless and shut down all machines and ran.

But by then rick had enough water supply to last him at least 5 days.

All the walkers that probably roamed the hallways had dispersed so it has been a few days.

I asked my dad how long he thinks he was and he said a month and a half.

  • 1
    My mom is a Registered Nurse, and she says that an IV bag lasts a few hours tops, and he would die within two or three days without water. We just have to accept that the show got this wrong.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 17:48
  • Ya pretty much. Although it's a fiction tv show about zombies so there isn't much logic to it Commented May 21, 2016 at 1:25

Thanks to The Walking Dead side story about the gate, "Death Inside", we know that at least one nurse remained at the hospital. So after the outbreak and after she died it may have been two to three weeks later that Rick awoke.

Judith isn't Rick's child. That doesn't help us figure out how long from the outbreak that he was in a coma in the hospital.

But I think it may have just been 3 to 4 months. That's because most of Shane's group are still lacking in any experience with the walking dead.

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