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July 04, 2006

Comatose Man's Brain Rewires Itself After 20 Years

But I was assured this was entirely impossible:

Doctors have their first proof that a man who was barely conscious for nearly 20 years regained speech and movement because his brain spontaneously rewired itself by growing tiny new nerve connections to replace the ones sheared apart in a car crash.

Terry Wallis, 42, is one of the few people known to have recovered so dramatically so long after a serious brain injury. He still needs help eating and cannot walk, but his speech continues to improve and he can count to 25 without interruption.

Wallis' sudden recovery happened three years ago at a rehabilitation center in Mountain View, Ark., but doctors said the same cannot be hoped for people in a persistent vegetative state, such as Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died last year after a fierce right-to-die court battle. Nor do they know how to make others with less serious damage, like Wallis, recover.

"Right now these cases are like winning the lottery," said Dr. Ross Zafonte, rehabilitation chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who was not involved in the research. "I wouldn't want to overenthuse family members or folks who think now we have a cure for this."

Wallis has complete amnesia about the two decades he spent barely conscious, but remembers his life before the injury.

Losing 20 years of your life in a catatonic stupor isn't fun, but there is an upside:

"He still thinks Ronald Reagan is president," his father, Jerry, said in a statement, adding that until recently his son insisted he was 20 years old.

To be 20 again, with Reagan in office. I'd hate to be the one explaining the true facts to him.

Bill from INDC Countdown... 10... 9... 8...


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