Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Man Speaks After 20-Year Coma

A man who was in a coma for 20 years has awakened from it and regained his speech and movement capabilities as his brain has rewired itself by growing new connections from those that were severed in an automobile accident. Terry Wallis is one of a few people to make such a dramatic recovery after a prolonged coma.

I thought people like that had no quality of life and that the proper and decent thing was to let them die of thirst.

Wallis speaks in a slurred but coherent voice, telling visitors "Glad to be met" and telling them of his brother's plans to light fireworks today at his house nearby.

For his family, each word is a miracle. Wallis began recovering from the coma in June 2003, as national controversy about an incapacitated woman, Terri Schiavo, began to develop.

Terry and Terri – you really can’t get a whole lot more ironic. Ms. Schiavo was killed after a 15-year coma. One wonders what might have happened with time and treatment.

[…] Researchers published a paper this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation about Wallis' story and say that his case provides strong evidence that the brain heals itself by forming new neural connections. The article includes images of Mr. Wallis' brain, the first ones to be taken from a recovering comatose patient.

[…] "In essence, Terry's brain may have been seeking out new pathways to reestablish functional connections to areas involved in speech and motor control to compensate for those lost due to damage," he explained.

The paper appears to suggest that Wallis did not make a sudden recovery three years ago, but his awakening from the coma was the result of years of nerves regrowing and healing themselves.

Despite the recovery, Wallis has complete amnesia about the 20 years he missed, when he was barely conscious and communicated only through nods and grunts, according to an AP report.

"He still thinks Ronald Reagan is president," his father, Jerry, said in a statement. Jerry indicated Wallis thought he was still 20 years old until recently.

With all due respect to W, whom I generally support, many of us would like to live under the delusion that Ronald Reagan was still president.

Jerry said Wallis often makes jokes like he did before the accident and frequently indicated he is happy to be alive - a sign that euthanizing him like Terri Schiavo was killed would have denied Wallis a second chance at life.

Happy to be alive? How can that be? I thought he was supposed to be upset that they'd kept him alive in a comatose state - maybe he could even sue for "wrongful life."

You knew God wouldn’t let the Terri Schiavo matter fade away without responding. How many people will listen?