Man diagnosed as ‘comatose’ for 23 years was actually fully conscious, but paralyzed

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by: Jonathan Benson | Natural News

Imagine being stuck in your bed, conscious but unable to speak or move, for a quarter of your life, while everyone around you thought you were just a comatose “vegetable.” This is what happened to 50-year-old Rom Houben of Belgium, who back in 2006, and later reported in 2009, was discovered to have actually been fully conscious, just paralyzed, for all these years, following a near-fatal car accident he suffered back in 1983.

It is one of the most nightmarish thoughts imaginable, being stuck in a lifeless body but unable to communicate with anyone for a full 23 straight years. But somehow, Houben was able to survive this unimaginable experience that shatters much of what the medical system thought it knew about brain damage and being unconscious. The entire coma diagnosis process as we currently know it, in fact, is now in question, as many more allegedly comatose individuals out there could actually be fully conscious and aware of their surroundings.

According to the U.K.’s Guardian, Houben has essentially been a prisoner in his own body since the early 1980s, unable to communicate with nurses, family and others who continually tried to communicate with him. It was not until 2006 when a new state-of-the-art PET scanning system came onto the scene that Houben’s caretakers came to realize the error of their assumptions — Houben had all along been able to hear and understand life, as it was taking place around his otherwise lifeless body.

“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,” said Houben via a special keyboard that was made for him following the discovery. “[I] traveled with my thoughts into the past, or into another existence altogether. I was only my consciousness and nothing else,” added the former engineering student, who speaks four different languages, about how he coped with his vegetative life.

Recalling the day his caretakers first discovered that he had been fully conscious all those years, Houben says it felt like a “second birth,” as it quite obviously changed the course of his entire existence in a major way. All the anger, powerlessness and despair that Houben felt all those years, which he says he soothed away through meditation and other desperate means, was gone in an instant.

Nearly half of all individuals currently diagnosed as comatose could be awake just like Houben, say experts

Not long after, the man credited with discovering the truth about Houben’s condition, neurologist Steven Laureys, conducted a follow-up study that aimed to find out how prevalent false coma diagnoses truly are. Much to his surprise, this expert from the University of Liege found that as many as 40 percent of all people currently diagnosed as being in a comatose or otherwise vegetative state are more than likely fully conscious but unable to communicate, just like Houben was.

Comatose patients are misdiagnosed “on a disturbingly regular basis,” Laureys is quoted as saying to Germany’s Der Spiegel news source. “Once someone is labeled as being without consciousness, it is very hard to get rid of that,” he added, noting that, of the 44 patients he examined that were believed to be in a vegetative state, only 26 of them actually were.

Laureys incredible findings, which were published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Neurology, are a major game-changer with regards to how the medical profession makes coma diagnoses. It also raises new questions as to the morality of “pulling the plug” on those diagnosed as being hopelessly vegetative, as many of them, just like Houben, could be anything but.

45 Comments on Man diagnosed as ‘comatose’ for 23 years was actually fully conscious, but paralyzed

  1. Iskra Petrova

    hmmmm…. what a discovery! what a challenge before the medics to find out ways to communicate with patience in "comatose`'…

  2. Harris Megan

    Wow! Question: The medical staff took which action immediately following the PET scan? How was the patient able to then begin communicating with the special keyboard?

  3. Terri Blake

    This would be horrific. I have a couple of questions as some of the statements do not make sense and need to be more detailed.
    1. What specifically did the PET Scan show that previous test did not?
    2. After the PET Scan discovery- how was the patient able to communicate in any manner as he was only in his consciousness and paralyzed?

  4. It's a computer, that tracks eye movement. Often used by quadriplegics, ALS suffers, etc. It takes some training, but through eye movement, they can spell out words, signal yes or no, and other things.

  5. Steve Murdoch

    Cara – But why wouldn't the patient have made attention-getting eye movements during the period when they were considered comatose? I'm dubious that the patients have the ability to control their eyes, otherwise they could have made their eyes do crazy stuff and their caregivers would have started asking them questions that they could respond to with eye movements, doesn't make sense.

  6. Leah French

    ahhh i see. this is the same method they use for autistic patients .. extremely controversial. the theory being that the facilitator, wanting to help and be a hero, unconsciously (or even consciously) leads the hand to type messages from their own mind, not that of the patent. either way, it's still a nightmare he cant truly wake up from.

  7. Diana Sanchez

    need more information on this. Like Megan says, HOW wat the patient able to begin communcating. YES more information please

  8. Ian Olsen

    jeeze do youguys ever post anything that's true? just read up on it.. it's all a feel good journalist hoax, twisted and distorted

  9. What I'm wondering is what prevented the engineering student from doing an SOS with whatever part of his body is moving the keyboard now? Everyone knows that one Morse code phrase: dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot. You can do it blinking, looking left and right, jaggering your breathing pattern, slowly, quickly, whatever gets the message out. So I looked for answers. It appears the method of communication is rather oiuji-board in nature. A therapist holds his hand and "feels" what direction he wants to go. Right. Sure. So doctors put him in a room with a colourful object without the therapist, removed the object, and then asked him to describe the object using the therapist. Surprise! He couldn't describe what he'd just seen. Nope, he wasn't communicating through the therapist. But that does tell us he can see. And that does tell us he could therefore send an SOS. But he didn't. Why? If he lost the knowledge of SOS, did he lose the ability to create and invent his own SOS? I didn't. When I lost my memory of how to speak after a terrible accident, I used hand signals. (I can speak now.) If he lost his memory of SOS, he could still do a blink, a jiggle, a look that says I'm here to anyone watching his face. So how come he doesn't? Better than just reading stories about fantastical things is asking questions about them. You don't come away knowing any more than what you knew before, but you do come away wiser.

  10. Steve Nolan

    23/50 is closer to half this man's life. As a former coma patient I am shocked answers and treatments haven't developed more rapidly.

  11. Tiray Killings


  12. Tiray Killings

    Megan..THEY KNEW WAY BEFORE! I know belgium! And i know Holland! They are devil's!You have to know them in order to get what i'm saying!

  13. Steve Murdoch and Danny, you 2 have obviously not been in a assisted living facility. CNA's and NA's make piss poor wages and don't like their jobs all that much and the vegetable in the corner is just one more dirty diaper to them. In short no one gave enough of a shit to look.

  14. Sherri S Kidds

    When you lost your memory of how to speak, how did you recover from that? Did you eventually just regain that memory, or was it necessary to re-learn language? The reason I ask is, I know someone, an adult, who no longer speaks, and the reason why is not clear…

  15. Laura Parker

    A revolutionary personal interface for human computer interacton.The Emotiv EPOC uses sensors to tune into electrical signals produced by the brain to detect user thoughts, feelings, and expressions. To devloped your own applications for the EPOC, license an SDK to obtain our proprietary software toolkit.

  16. Laura Parker

    A revolutionary personal interface for human computer interacton.The Emotiv EPOC uses sensors to tune into electrical signals produced by the brain to detect user thoughts, feelings, and expressions. To devloped your own applications for the EPOC, license an SDK to obtain our proprietary software toolkit.

  17. Monique Wubbolts Dembrow

    Wow Tiray, you do not know anything! Your compassion however is questionable to call two whole countries devils…

  18. from what i have read, it can be possable to rewire the brain, so if you lose the ability to do a common thing(talk read write) it is possable to train other areas of the brain to do these things. it is called brain plasticity. check out the writtings of Oliver Sachs

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