November 23, 2009
Man’s Paralysis Mistaken For Coma For 23 Years
For 23 years, Rom Houben was trapped inside his paralyzed body, after doctors had mistaken his condition to be a coma following a car crash.
The 46-year-old man was unable to communicate with doctors or family members, who believed him to be in a long-term coma.
"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear," said Houben.
"I dreamed myself away," he said. "Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt."
Doctors at the hospital in Zolder, Belgium used the Glasgow Coma Scale to grade Houben's eye, verbal and motor responses.
Doctors and family members eventually gave up on believing that Houben would ever wake from the coma, until they employed revolutionary brain scanning techniques that showed his brain was functioning at near normal levels.
"I'll never forget the day that they discovered me, it was my second birth," said Houben, who uses a keyboard to communicate.
"Medical advances caught up with him," neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys told the Daily Mail.
Laureys, who heads the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital, has issued a scientific report on Houben's case, and he believes there are many other people in the same state as Houben's.
"In Germany alone each year some 100,000 people suffer from severe traumatic brain injury," said Laureys.
"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."
"I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead," said Houben.
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