Comatose for 23 years, Belgian feels reborn
By RAF CASERT (AP) – 4 hours ago
BRUSSELS — Helped by a therapist, Rom Houben's outstretched finger tapped with surprising speed on a computer touchscreen, spelling out how he felt "alone, lonely, frustrated" in the 23 years he was trapped inside a paralyzed body.
After a doctor found he was wrongly diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, and worked out a way for him to communicate, Houben said he now feels reborn.
"And just like with a baby, it happens with a lot of stumbling," the 46-year-old Belgian wrote, tapping out the words in Dutch for Associated Press Television News on Tuesday as an aide guided his hand.
A leading bioethicist, however, expressed skepticism that Houben was really communicating, saying the responses seem unnatural for someone with such a profound injury and an inability to communicate for decades. The medical team guiding Houben said it had done special tests to verify it was Houben communicating.
Injured in a car crash in 1983 when he was 20, Houbon was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, though doctors now believe he was conscious the whole time.
An expert using a specialized type of brain scan that was not available in the 1980s says he finally realized Houben was suffering from a form of "locked-in syndrome," in which people are unable to speak or move but can think and reason, and provided him with the equipment to communicate.