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Man Who Spent 15 Years In Vegetative State, Wakes Up- Begins Crying For One Reason

A man has spent the last 15 years in a vegetative state after being injured in a car accident. The man shocked his health care team when he began to come out of it. Doctors believe it may show hope for their course of treatment.

The unnamed man was in the car accident at the age of 20 and has remained almost motionless ever since. He was not in a coma because he could occasionally open his eyes - coma patients can't move at all. Doctors call his condition a 'vegetative state', and for years he remained in a world of his own.

Dr. Angela Sirigu of the Institute des Sciences Cognitive decided to attempt an experimental treatment on the man to see if it made any difference in his condition. She implanted a device under the skin in his chest. The device is like a pacemaker, sending electrical currents from the nerves to the brain stem. Instead of the heart, though, this device stimulated the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that goes from the colon, through the abdomen and chest, all the way up through the neck and into the brain. It regulates the heart rate, sweating, and the muscles in the intestines that help us digest food and that help push it along to the colon.

Stimulating the vagus nerve is sometimes done to help treat seizures, or to treat depression in some patients. Sirigu hoped that it would have a positive impact on the patient's condition.

Just one month after the implant surgery, the patient was already showing signs of improvement. He began to move slightly more. Six months later, he began moving consciously and he started responding to external stimuli.

The man seems to have a new awareness of his surroundings, now. He suffers from severe brain damage and can't speak, but now when people talk to him he tries to turn his head in their direction. When they played his favorite song, he appeared to cry.

These may not seem like huge things, but in the case of someone who has been in a vegetative state and unresponsive for years, it's tremendous. Usually, after a year in a vegetative state, patients are considered a lost cause.

The study researchers believe that this method of treatment is “challenging the belief that disorders of consciousness persisting after 12 months are irreversible.”

The study researchers admit, however, that the treatment is not meant for every patient with traumatic brain injuries. Much depends on the cause of the injury.

A rare few have 'woken up' after years in a vegetative state. One South African man became aware after 12 years. Another Arkansas man came out of a coma after 18 years. Usually, it's a fluke when a person reawakens after such a long period of time. Now, for some cases, doctors might actually be able to make it happen with this kind of technology.

Source: NY Daily News
Photo: YouTube

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