Firefighter Comes Out of 10 Year Coma - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/4/05

Firefighter Comes Out of 10 Year Coma

A Buffalo firefighter was critically injured in the line of duty ten years ago and he's been virtually unconscious ever since. Over the weekend, Donald Herbert came out of his coma and started talking. So how can that happen?

In new research at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, brain scans show that in minimally conscious patients, the areas of the brain that control language light up when they hear recordings made by family members.

"We were not able to distinguish them from normal patients when we asked them to listen to narratives of their family members speaking to them," says Dr. Joy Hirssch, with Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

"It was amazing, he started recognizing people after nine and a half years, you can imagine," says Simon A. Manke, Uncle of Donald Herbert.

On the other hand, neurologists who examined Terry Schiavo say her case was different that she was in something called a persistent vegetative state from which there is almost no chance of recovery.

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