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For 23 Years, Fully Aware but Mute and Paralyzed

After surviving a car wreck in 1983 at the age of 20, Rom Houben was written off as a vegetable. He was actually perfectly alert. The Belgian would spend the next 23 years in a private hell until doctors finally discovered his consciousness and found a way to communicate with him.

The story has revived the fiasco that surrounded Terri Schiavo, the vegetative Florida woman whose case was distastefully taken up by Congress.

Whatever the parallels, the Houben case seems the worst kind of nightmare. For more than two decades, he was treated as a piece of furniture. He was unable to speak or cry even when he overheard that his father had died.

His was not a unique experience. It’s called locked-in syndrome, the most famous patient being Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French journalist who blinked out his memoir using only his left eyelid. — PZS

AP via Yahoo:

For 23 torturous years, Rom Houben says he lay trapped in his paralyzed body, aware of what was going on around him but unable to tell anyone or even cry out.

The car-crash victim had been diagnosed as being in a vegetative state but appears to have been conscious the whole time. An expert using a specialized type of brain scan that was not available in the 1980s finally realized it, and unlocked Houben’s mind again.

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