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Originally posted by nicolaas
To say the least. Oh the agony of lying there unable to communicate that you are there must have been heart breaking. I think i would quickly have given up hope - a hell of a lot quicker than 23 years that's for sure.
Late last year, a man named Rom Houben recovered from a coma. This was not a particularly noteworthy event, except that Houben had been in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state” since 1983. Yet in 2006, a brain scan revealed that his brain was far more active than previously believed—despite his body being unable to move.
Houben’s (partial) recovery surprised and intrigued many in the medical community, but what made it all the more amazing was that he gave an interview in the German newspaper Der Spiegel about his life as a victim of “locked in syndrome.”
Because Houben remains paralyzed, his account was written with the help of his speech therapist, Linda Wouters, who guided his fingers to a specially-made keyboard. Wouters said that Houbens told her which letters to type with subtle twitches of his finger.
Houben’s unique and inspiring story in Der Spiegelwas a huge success, and he planned to work with Wouters to write a full-length book about his experiences, in the same vein as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a previous patient with the same condition who wrote a book that the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was based upon.
But was Wouters helping Houben type, or typing for him? This technique, called facilitated communication, was used in the 1980s and 1990s to help autistic children and others with limited communication abilities but was later proven bogus.
At first, Houbens’s neurologist, Steven Laureys, insisted that his tests showed it was Houben, not Wouters, who was typing the man’s words. Still, questions remained, and upon further testing Laureys reversed himself and concluded that Houben’s words had not been his own. Tests conclusively proved this: For example, in one test Houben was shown a series of objects and words for him to identify without his speech therapist present. When his therapist came into the room, he was asked to type the words he had seen moments earlier. The therapist had no way of knowing what the words were, and Houben could not type a single one.
Wouters had (presumably unwittingly) created Houben’s story out of thin air; she had written what she thought he would say, probably believing the words and ideas were coming not from herself, but from him. Thus all the words, the Der Spiegel interview were all fictional—as would be his book.
In a study certain to rekindle debate over switch off life support machines for those with grievous brain injuries, researchers report that five out of 54 patients thought to be in a persistent vegetative state showed brain activity indicating awareness, intent and, in at least one case, a wish to communicate.
One of those patients — a 22-year-old man who had been unresponsive for five years after an automobile crash — went on to respond to a series of simple questions with brain activity that clearly indicated yes or no answers, researchers said.