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Poll_Blind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 10:48 PM
Original message
Mom: Son in coma heard everything for 23 years
From Associated Press via BreitBart:

BRUSSELS (AP) - A man who emerged from what doctors thought was a vegetative state says he was fully conscious for 23 years but could not respond because he was paralyzed, his mother said Monday.

Rom Houben, 46, had a car crash in 1983 and doctors thought he had sunk into a coma. His family continued to believe their son was conscious and sought further medical advice.

Professor Steven Laureys of Belgium's Coma Science Group realized that the diagnosis was wrong and taught Houben how to communicate through a special keyboard, said Dr. Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse, who is on Laureys' team.

--snip--

The case came to light after Laureys published a study in the journal BMC Neurology this year showing that about four out of ten patients with consciousness disorders are wrongly diagnosed as being a vegetative state. Houben, although not specifically mentioned, was part of the study.


When I think of unimaginable numbers, I think of the number of stars in our galaxy or maybe the grains of sand on a beach. There is always a wistful and romantic air about the nature of such questions, for me. But on reading this story I was reminded that there are relatively small numbers (in comparison) which are also unfathomable: What 8,000 days unable to communicate but able to hear the world around you would do to a person.

Time erodes all things, and in some cases (like this) I can only speculate the corrosive effect such isolation would have on the human mind. And yet, Mr. Houben has made a uniquely harrowing journey almost too fantastic even for horror fiction. I have...no concept of what that was like but I welcome him back to the world of the living which had once believed him dead.

Welcome back, Rom.

As much as I may marvel at the little creatures whose whole universe is encompassed by the a few square meters around a deep-sea vent I must also consider the resilience of humanity which, too often, is easily discounted.
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Cant trust em Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 10:53 PM
Response to Original message
1. This sounds really awful to me.
Imagine being in the room and hearing people talk about pulling the plug on you.
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cyclezealot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #1
42. My fear
being trapped in a bed all those years and star gazing at the ceiling. Would you enjoy life..
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Shell Beau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:07 PM
Response to Original message
2. It reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock show I once watched on Nick at Nite.
Or was it the Twilight Zone? Anyway, I can't imagine being alive on the inside (mind wise) and being basically dead to everyone else on the outside. I bet those were a long 23 years.
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frazzled Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. You should watch 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,' if you haven't yet
It's based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor of Elle magazine, who suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma (though only for a month or so) and awoke unable to move, except for one eye. He had a condition called "locked-in syndrome," and learned to communicate by blinking that one eyelid. He wrote his memoirs about the condition--through blinking!

It's really a remarkable film (directed by the painter Julian Schnabel). If you want to imagine what it is like to be "locked in," you will have a very good idea by the end of the film.
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:31 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. agreed nt
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Quantess Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 03:21 AM
Response to Reply #4
34. My first thought, as well.
It was possibly the saddest movie I've ever seen. I cried my eyes out. It was definitely worth seeing, though. The cinematography was creative. Just be prepared for a sad ending.
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:32 PM
Response to Reply #2
10. It was an Alfred Hitchcock...very old. The man belittled someone for crying...and
then he was paralyzed..on the autopsy table..and the only thing that stopped the procedure were his tears...
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Shell Beau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:35 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. That was it, but I remember him being in a body bag or getting
buried, and a tear fell down his cheek, and no one saw it. You could hear his thoughts the whole time, but everyone thought he was dead. I thought I remembered it ending and me believing no one saw the tear and assumed he was dead. It was so long ago that I really don't remember it too well. I remember it freaking me out though.
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:44 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. Joseph Cotton played the paralyzed man.
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EOTE Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-25-09 02:33 PM
Response to Reply #13
44. Stephen King did a short story like that.
I forget the name, but it was in Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I believe the guy gets completely paralyzed by a snake bite. His breathing is incredibly shallow and his heart rate slowed so it appears as if he's dead. You read his thought processes as he listens to the two people about to perform an autopsy on him. Don't read past the scroll if you don't want to find out how it ends...

Spoiler:
















The female doctor places her hand on his thigh and he uses that to "will" himself to have an erection. When the doctor notices it, she realizes he's still alive and halts the autopsy.
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Blue-Jay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:37 PM
Response to Reply #2
14. It's exactly like Hitchcock..... Fiction.
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Shell Beau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:38 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. So you're not buying it?
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Blue-Jay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:45 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Not without some reliable information.
It's barely within the realm of possibility, but still not bloody likely.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:09 AM
Response to Reply #2
20. It was one of the early Alfred Hitchcock episodes
Joseph Cotten played a man injured in an accident and completely paralyzed. Everyone thinks he's dead, but he's fully conscious.
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sojourner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:14 PM
Response to Original message
3. and thanks goodness his family "knew" better than to believe the "experts"...or it really
would have been 23 years of hell....
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:19 PM
Response to Original message
5. I knew a woman who (afterward) described her state of consciousness during three months in a coma
Edited on Mon Nov-23-09 11:19 PM by omega minimo
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:23 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Could she comprehend what people were saying?
I had a severe concussion once and I had trouble comprehending what people were saying (even though I could "see" the word streams flowing through my brain.) I'm kind of curious as I find this sort of this fascinating.
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:07 AM
Response to Reply #6
19. Interesting.
Edited on Tue Nov-24-09 12:10 AM by omega minimo
Her description was of an altered state of consciousness, where she saw others who were also in the hospital, injured/dying and "unconscious." I don't recall how she heard the outer world.
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:15 AM
Response to Reply #19
21. Wow
What I wouldn't do to be inside someone's head when they experience stuff like that. I wish I could have "plugged" into something when I saw those "slide shows" where all the significant events of my life (yet to happen) would zoom past me in a dream. It all sounds "crazy" to those who haven't experienced similar.
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:19 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. Well HughMoran
I take people who tell me their first person stories at their word. One of the characters that she described seeing resembled a very significant figure that I had seen in a dream. Later, I found out this figure has larger significance as an archetype and symbol in other cultures.

Of course all of this would be attacked as anecdotal and "woo" by those who despise the actual experience of mere mortals.
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:27 AM
Response to Reply #22
24. I believe
It's rare that one can share these experiences with another due to societal/peer pressure and religious dogma that has corrupted many a mind, but there are ever so rarely those who will listen and share their experiences.
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:55 AM
Response to Reply #24
27. Au contraire
If we ask those we know, we find that many (most, nearly all) people have some story they are willing to tell, if they still remember....
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:57 AM
Response to Reply #24
28. Actually, agreed. Can both be true?
"It's rare that one can share these experiences with another due to societal/peer pressure and religious dogma that has corrupted many a mind"

Yes.

"... but there are ever so rarely those who will listen and share their experiences."

We rarely ask.
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HughMoran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #28
40. I think both are true
...to the extent that you'd probably never ask one of your closed-minded right-wing friends (though they do occasionally surprise). Also, due to "bad experiences", I tend to be very cautious about breaching certain topics with friends/acquaintances - it comes down to my "comfort level" with that person(s).
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Withywindle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:27 PM
Response to Original message
7. OMG that is my single biggest fear.
:scared: :scared: :scared:

That poor, poor guy. Talk about a fate worse than death!
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Poll_Blind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:54 PM
Response to Reply #7
18. Yeah, I'm pretty much there with you- which is why his ability to communicate at....
...all, after such a long time in that kind of isolation is astounding to me. I just cannot grasp how he would have dealt with the horrific reality he was presented with- and for so long. I really can't imagine it and I can't imagine that someone can go through that and come out in something, anything, like "one piece" out the other side.

I hope he is able to convey his story. I think that it would not only be interesting, horrifying but also empowering. I mean, shit: An "And I thought my problems were bad." kind of thing.
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Withywindle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 02:19 AM
Response to Reply #18
32. It *is* astounding.
Edited on Tue Nov-24-09 02:21 AM by Withywindle
And kind of horrific in its own way. I kind of think that, a few years in, my will to live should have shut itself off. I NEED stimulus of some kind. I could accept being a quadriplegic, I think, I could accept having a body that was fading in a sort of Stephen Hawking way--as long as I still had a way to communicate and respond to others.

To lie there staring at a ceiling for a quarter of a century, with no way to tell my loved ones, 'HELLO, I AM STILL SENTIENT!'

I read that when it was first recognized that he was "awake" and attention was paid to helping him communicate, "It was like a second birth." I bet. And more intense than the first. I really hope he does get a way to tell his story - and that story convinces people that quality of life is VERY important, that human dignity is important, that a peaceful death is NOT the worst thing in the world when compared to a tormented life.


I still have nightmares about Terri Schiavo for the same reason. No, I don't think she would ever be capable of independent life--but the idea that she MIGHT be "awake" on some completely non-communicative level, and that she had relatives willing to keep her in that hell for decades was so much more horrifying to me than thinking that her husband wanted to let her pass away peacefully. Fuck, if the best I can ever do is make blurry eye movements at the sight of a balloon or some shit? PUT A PILLOW OVER MY FACE, for fuck's sake!
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jasi2006 Donating Member (544 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 02:39 AM
Response to Reply #18
33. Something about this story just doesn't seem right.
I want toknow more about this story and be able to see the person.
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Poll_Blind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 08:43 AM
Response to Reply #33
35. There's video of the guy and his mother at the link (on the left), IIRC n/t
PB
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:30 PM
Response to Original message
8. This is why it is important not to talk about patients, even the ones who
are not in a coma, as is they are not there. Happens too often, especially with the elderly.

This is why it is important to talk to someone who may be unconscious. We can never be sure of how much he or she can actually hear and comprehend.

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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:33 PM
Response to Original message
11. Tonight on the news there was a story of a man whose heart stopped for 47 minutes.
Edited on Mon Nov-23-09 11:33 PM by BrklynLiberal
They put him into an induced coma to save his life. He said he heard all the conversations going on around him during the days he was in a coma.
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Lucian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-23-09 11:33 PM
Response to Original message
12. If there is a Hell, that is it.
I feel bad for the guy and his family. :(
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Political Heretic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:23 AM
Response to Original message
23. I think I saw this on a Metallica video....
:)

Sorry I'm not feeling as romantic as the OP, but no offense.
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Maraya1969 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:31 AM
Response to Original message
25. Oh my God I'm going to tell my family to kill me if I am ever in that state. That is nightmare.
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DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:50 AM
Response to Original message
26. I'd like to know more about this "special keyboard"
For now, I'm skeptical.
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HuckleB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 01:03 AM
Response to Reply #26
31. You're not alone in your skepticism.
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DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 09:58 AM
Response to Reply #31
36. Ah, it's the Facilitated Communication scam
So the story is nonsense.
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HuckleB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 10:08 AM
Response to Reply #36
37. Maybe.
I think some of the responses to that piece, brought up some questions that need to be answered before we say that definitively, but...
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Chulanowa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-25-09 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #37
43. I poked my nose into a video of it that P.Z. Meyers has up
It's a scam. And it's a fucking shame, too.
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SidDithers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 10:15 AM
Response to Reply #31
38. +1...
thanks for posting that.

Sid
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Barack_America Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 10:19 AM
Response to Reply #26
39. Your skepticism is warranted.
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Johonny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-25-09 02:36 PM
Response to Reply #26
45. The story has floated around here for several days now
I'm interested at the varying degrees of reactions it gets. I think many share your thoughts.
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 12:58 AM
Response to Original message
29. OMG. That's a nightmare.
How does one not go completely insane?
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Libertas1776 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 01:01 AM
Response to Original message
30. 23 years? OK, I have officially crapped my pants.
:scared:

Just pull the plug, I don't think I could handle that.
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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-24-09 11:40 AM
Response to Original message
41. 23 years of torture
Conscious but totally paralyzed? Worse than 23 years of solitary confinement.
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