Basically, a character is in a situation it seems no one could survive, and later they turn up clinging to life in a hospital.
The situation looks bad. Alice and Bob have been bruised, beaten, cut, and shot. On top of that, the Mooks are closing in. They look up to see The Cavalry, but it's too late. Carol, riding alongside The Cavalry, sees the two go down fighting. Cut to the next scene. Alice wakes up in a hospital, surprised to be alive. She's taken to see Bob, who tells her 'At least I got to see you one last time, old friend.'
Due to the Rule of Drama, it's common for major characters in fiction to be Left for Dead or placed in a No One Could Survive That! scenario. However, as shown in the Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, it's much less common for major characters to be Killed Off for Real this way. Sometimes the character just turns up later unharmed, sometimes an Unexplained Recovery is lampshaded by "I got better" or the like, but sometimes the writer wants to Take a Third Option. Usually the 'surviving' characters are told 'there's someone who wants to see you', and there they are, clinging to life. Sometimes the rescue is shown, often in flashback, to highlight the rescuer as well as the victim, while other times the character just turns up later this way. Having a character hospitalized after a dramatic moment gives writers additional options that can be Played for Drama, for example:
- Clear up loose ends and add realism, showing the character may have gotten away, but not unscathed.
- Highlight the character as being physically vulnerable enough that their life was really in jeopardy.
- Suggest the character was literally saved in the nick of time.
- Suggest the character survived more through force of will than dumb luck.
- Provide a surprise happy ending / subversion of a Bittersweet Ending.
In some cases, this is used as a Double Subversion of No One Could Survive That! by having the character die in the hospital. Often used to allow The Hero or villain an Obi-Wan Moment rather than having them Killed Mid-Sentence.
It can also be Played for Laughs if the character is hospitalized after a situation that didn't appear life-threatening or is convinced they are dead and wondering why the afterlife seems strangely familiar, flirting with the 'angels', etc.
SPOILER ALERT: This is one of those rare tropes that, by its very nature, has the potential to spoil an ending simply by revealing it occurs within a certain medium. Please read with caution.
- In Code Geass: Euphie gets to say goodbye to rescuer Suzaku before she dies. On the other hand, Cornelia somehow survives being shot up twice.
- People awake in hospital beds all the time in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Happens constantly in Lyrical Nanoha.
- In Kanon, in a flashback, Ayu falls from a tree and is presumably killed. Later, it is revealed that she's been in a coma in the hospital the whole time, and she soon recovers.
- In Eden of the East, a brief scene near the end shows Panties in a hospital room, having evidently survived being run over by 1 and 10.
- In the animated Street Fighter 2 movie, Chun-Li is wounded in her fight against Vega roughly half-way through the movie. After Ryu and Ken defeat Bison in the climax, Guile goes to the hospital where she's staying to tell her the news but finds her with a sheet pulled up over her face, as if she'd died. He sadly tells her that at least Bison went down- then she suddenly pulls off the sheet and sits up, even showing him the newspaper with news of Shadowlaw's destruction in it, revealing she already knew. She'd just been pretending to be dead to prank him.
- Macross Frontier does this as a playful Mythology Gag. One episode seemingly sets up Ozma Lee to die in same fashion as Roy Fokker from the the original series, including a scene where he and his love interest discuss Pineapple Salad (the dish Roy was going to eat with his love interest Claudia when he got back from his next mission). However, after his Valkyrie is destroyed, Ozma is shown recovering in the hospital while his wingman Mikhail Blanc leans on the fourth wall by remarking on how dramatic it would have been if he had died. For extra irony points, Mikhail himself ends up dying in a dramatic fashion a few episodes later, while Ozma survives the whole series.
- In Spectacular Seven, Sunset gets one after waking up from having her soul briefly locked in the Soul Lock by Tempest Shadow, nearly in a state of panic. Lucky for Sunset that Twilight was waiting by Sunset's beside to calm her down.
- In A Prize For Three Empires, Carol Danvers fights a Kree gladiator to death, and then she passes out as a result of her injuries. Later she wakes up in an infirmary, with her friends leaning over her.
- In Jurassic Park III, a character who went missing turns up in a makeshift hospital at the end.
- Happens numerous times in Star Wars
- Both Luke and Anakin end up stranded and injured and are shuttled to a hospital.
- In the Expanded Universe X-Wing Series, Wraith Squadron pilot Garik "Face" Loran is injured pretty badly when his X-wing is screwed up beyond repair by enemy laser fire. His behavior and the little detail we're given as to the exact nature of his injuries lead us to believe he's dying, but then he wakes up in the hospital at the end.
- Starship Troopers: Played for Laughs when Rico wakes up in a rejuvenation tank to see his buddies holding his death certificate.
- Lucy: Lucy, after the scene in the airplane bathroom.
- Played for Laughs in The Wedding Planner: Mary is pushed out of the way of a hurtling dumpster, passes out, and wakes up in a hospital with a doctor leaning over her. Actually, it's a little girl 'pretending' to be a doctor; Mary's rescuer was a pediatrician and brought her to the children's hospital where he worked.
- Captain America: The First Avenger ends with Captain America crashing a Nazi warplane in the Arctic and seemingly dying. Cut to him waking up in the hospital. However, the real surprise isn't that he survived the crash, it's that he woke up seventy years later.
- Tolkien's Legendarium:
- In The Icewind Dale Trilogy: The Crystal Shard, Drizzt is called to Bruenor's bedside after the final battle. He assures his mortally wounded friend that he will look for Bruenor's homeland in the spring. Bruenor then reveals that he isn't that badly hurt, he was just trying to force Drizzt to set a starting date for their perpetually delayed quest to find Mithral Hall in the presence of witnesses.
- In Firefly, in the episode Out of Gas, Mal passes out from blood loss and oxygen deprivation just as he restarts the engine, but before he can give the signal for his crew to return to Serenity. He wakes up in the medical facility, with the rest of his crew around him, being treated by Simon. It turns out that Zoe, who had last been seen unconscious and severely injured from an explosion, ordered the crew to go back for Mal, without waiting for his signal.
- Downplayed on Arrested Development. Gob goes to the set of the telenovela his girlfriend works on because he thinks she's cheating on him with a co-star. He accuses one actor and attacks him, only to get knocked out by one punch. (The narrator explains that the actor had been taking boxing lessons for another role.) Gob wakes up in the hospital with Michael looking over him. He asks if he's in two thirds of a hospital room. We then see he's only in a hospital set at the telenovela's studio.
- Something like this happens in the original Ultima VII. If the Avatar takes lethal damage, you wake up in the Fellowship Shelter in one of the cities. Everyone present lays it on real thick that it was a miracle you were rescued and survived. Or, if you have no companions and the Shelter keepers are dead, you wake up in the bed anyway and get to continue on your merry way.
- This is a classic trend in all Ultima games, which don't let death get in the way of continuing. In most games, you and your companions are simply teleported back to Lord British (there is, in fact, a specific spell - 'Kal Lor' - that does this, which Lord British uses) who uses his awesome healing magic to restore you. (Even in the fifth game, when Lord British has vanished, his ghostly form will do the job.) In Savage Empires and Martian Dreams, passersby will drag your nearly dead bodies back to the shaman and ship's doctor respectively. In Serpent Isle, the Xenkan monks will teleport you to them and raise you, and you can summon one to resurrect your friends at any time.
- Persona 2: Shiori wakes up in a hospital at the end of part three and is visited by Anna. Who tells her the Suou brothers brought her there.
- A variant occurs at the end of The Last of Us. Joel is faced with the Sadistic Choice of choosing to save Ellie, the girl he's come to think of like a daughter, or allowing her brain to be harvested to cure humanity of the zombie plague. He chooses to save her, and as he's carrying her unconscious out of the hospital, he's confronted by Marlene, who gives him one last chance to save humanity. Cut to Joel driving alone in a car...as Ellie wakes up in the backseat. He tells her the doctors found other immune people, but couldn't find a cure and have stopped trying. His dialogue is played against a flashback of him shooting Marlene so she can't follow them.
- Futurama had an episode where Fry and Leela are stung by a giant alien killer bee. Fry dies and Leela is convinced that he is still speaking to her somehow from beyond the grave. It turns out she actually dreamed it all while in a coma thanks to the bee's venom, and Fry had been at her bedside the whole time, begging her to Please Wake Up.