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Awakened from a Persistent Vegatative State

John on September 15, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Amazing story in the Guardian about a doctor who discovered by accident that a generic sleeping pill helped “vegatables” wake up. Seems like just a little over a year ago we were told by experts this sort of thing couldn’t happen.

Maybe it couldn’t have helped Terri. We’ll never know who assured us hope of a cure was so much wishful thinking. But this simple pill is helping many people in similar cases, including several who didn’t move or react for years prior to being given the drug.

For three years, Riaan Bolton has lain motionless, his eyes open but unseeing. After a devastating car crash doctors said he would never again see or speak or hear. Now his mother, Johanna, dissolves a pill in a little water on a teaspoon and forces it gently into his mouth. Within half an hour, as if a switch has been flicked in his brain, Riaan looks around his home in the South African town of Kimberley and says, “Hello.” Shortly after his accident, Johanna had turned down the option of letting him die.

Three hundred miles away, Louis Viljoen, a young man who had once been cruelly described by a doctor as “a cabbage”, greets me with a mischievous smile and a streetwise four-move handshake. Until he took the pill, he too was supposed to be in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state.

Across the Atlantic in the United States, George Melendez, who is also brain-damaged, has lain twitching and moaning as if in agony for years, causing his parents unbearable grief. He, too, is given this little tablet and again, it’s as if a light comes on. His father asks him if he is, indeed, in pain. “No,” George smiles, and his family burst into tears.

It all sounds miraculous, you might think. And in a way, it is. But this is not a miracle medication, the result of groundbreaking neurological research. Instead, these awakenings have come as the result of an accidental discovery by a dedicated – and bewildered – GP. They have all woken up, paradoxically, after being given a commonly used sleeping pill.

That’s just the beginning of a long article with lots more stories like these. Next time an expert says that hope foolish and anti-science, remember this.
[HT: JunkYard Blog]

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