Conscious in a coma

   After 23 years, a man came out of a state that doctors considered as vegetative. His mother stated that he lived aware all the time, but she could not explain why he was numb.

   Rom Houben, a 46-year-old man, suffered a car crash and the neurologists thought that he had been in coma. His family thought that Houben was aware and looked for more diagnostics of experts in the case.

   Professor Steven Laureys, a member of the Belgian group that studies patients in coma, realized that the diagnosis was wrong and taught Houben how to manifest through a special keyboard, said the erudite Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse who also is a member of the group of Laureys.

   Rom used the keys to express to a journalist of the Berlin magazine Der Spiegel that: «I shouted but nothing was heard.»

   The Berlin neurologists that attended him after the accident expressed that Houben had passed from a coma state to a vegetative state. The coma is a state of darkness in which the eyes are blinded and the sick person cannot be stoked.

   The vegetative state is when the eyes are open and can move, the sick person has moments of drowsiness and spaces in which is awaked, but persists fainted and does not realize anything. The sick person cannot think, express, bite, or eat.

   His parents did not accept this situation. His mother, Fine Houben, finally found the group of Laureys and after a contrast with the scanner found that he was aware of everything around him. From that moment, they proposed to relate to Rom. He began to deny or affirm by turning a little his hand to tighten the keys of a computer.

   Then the syllabication came, using his index with a touch screen installed in his wheelchair.

    «It was very difficult for him and showed a great anger, it is normal because he was very frustrated,» said Vanhaudenhuyse.

   Houben has begun to write about his experience.
   CLEMENTE FERRER

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