Skip to main content

Man trapped in 23-year 'coma' reveals horror of being unable to tell doctors he was conscious

This story was written by Rom Houben of the Online Mail. One might hope that it will give pause to those who so frequently are calling for those in a persistent vegetative state to be euthanized.


A car crash victim has spoken of the horror he endured for 23 years after he was misdiagnosed as being in a coma when he was conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben, trapped in his paralysed body after a car crash, described his real-life nightmare as he screamed to doctors that he could hear them - but could make no sound.

'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.

'I dreamed myself away,' he added, tapping his tale out with the aid of a computer.

Doctors used a range of coma tests before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was 'extinct'.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

His case has only just been revealed in a scientific paper released by the man who 'saved' him, top neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys.

'Medical advances caught up with him,' said Dr Laureys, who believes there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world.

The disclosure will also renew the right-to-die debate over whether people in comas are truly unconscious.

Mr Houben, a former martial arts enthusiast, was paralysed in 1983.

Doctors in Zolder, Belgium, used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his eye, verbal and motor responses. But each time he was graded incorrectly.

Only a re-evaluation of his case at the University of Liege discovered that he had lost control of his body but was still fully aware of what was happening.

He is never likely to leave hospital, but as well as his computer he now has a special device above his bed which lets him read books while lying down.

Mr Houben said: 'I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth.

'I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead.'

Dr Laureys's new study claims that patients classed as in a vegetative state are often misdiagnosed.

'Anyone who bears the stamp of "unconscious" just one time hardly ever gets rid of it again,' he said.

The doctor, who leads the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital, found Mr Houben's brain was still working by using state-of-the-art imaging.

He plans to use the case to highlight what he considers may be similar examples around the world.

Dr Laureys said: 'In Germany alone each year some 100,000 people suffer from severe traumatic brain injury.

'About 20,000 are followed by a coma of three weeks or longer. Some of them die, others regain health.

'But an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people a year remain trapped in an intermediate stage - they go on living without ever coming back again.'

Supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide argue that people who have lain in persistent vegetative states for years should be given the opportunity to have crucial medical support withdrawn because of the 'indignity' of their condition.

But there have been several cases in which people judged to be in vegetative states or deep comas have recovered.

Twenty years ago, Carrie Coons, an 86-year-old from New York, regained consciousness after a year, took small amounts of food by mouth and engaged in conversation.

Only days before her recovery, a judge had granted her family's request for the removal of the feeding tube which had been keeping her alive.

In the UK in 1993, doctors switched off the life support system keeping alive Tony Bland, a 22-year- old who had been in a coma for three years following the Hillsborough disaster.

Dr Laureys was not available for comment yesterday and it is not clear why he thought Mr Houben should have the hi-tech screening when so many years had passed.

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Sisters of Life

Here is an excellent website for any and all interested in the pro-life cause. The Sisters of Life are a religious order than began in New York City under the authority of Cardinal Jon O'Connor (RIP) in the 1980's. Their traditional religious lifestyle and clear charism have led them to grow much faster than many other orders. As a result, these wonderful women are moving beyond the boundaries of NYC and have opened a convent in Toronto. Here is a link to a news account from LifesiteNews which explains in greater detail their history and mission in Toronto. The Sisters of Life count among their numbers a woman from our Parish here in Mattawa who is soon to take her final profession. This is one of the greatest blessings that we have received as a parish. Anytime a religious vocation comes forward from a parish community, many graces flow back to the local church. I can only pray that as the Sisters of Life establish their ministry in Canada that more and more women will join
 

Canadian Euthanasia Information

The May 2010 Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Newsletter can now be found at: http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/Newsletters/Newsletter108(May2010)(RGB).pdf Bill C-384 was soundly defeated by a vote of 228 to 59. Check how the Members of Parliament voted at: http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/HowTheyVoted.pdf On June 5, 2010, we are co-hosting the US/Canda Push-Back Seminar at the Radisson Gateway Hotel at the Seattle/Tacoma Airport. The overwhelming defeat of Bill C-384 proved that we can Push-Back the euthanasia lobby in the US and Canada and convince people that euthanasia and assisted suicide are a dangerous public policy. Register for the Seminar at: http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/2010SeminarFlyer(RGB)(LetterFormat).pdf The Schindler family are being attacked by a Florida television station and Michael Schiavo. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is standing in solidarity with the Schindler family. My blog comments: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2010/05/att