I read an interesting article today. Two thoughts struck me about this:
1. 11 Let’s not be hasty to dismiss patients as “vegetative” without more extensive testing.
Belgian doctors who treated him early on said that Rom had gone from a coma into a vegetative condition.
Coma is a state of unconsciousness in which the eyes are closed and the patient can't be roused, as if simply asleep. A vegetative state is a condition in which the eyes are open and can move, and the patient has periods of sleep and periods of wakefulness, but remains unconscious and unaware of him or herself or others. The patient can't think, reason, respond, do anything on purpose, chew or swallow.
. . .
The case came to light after Laureys published a study in the journal BMC Neurology this year showing that about four out of ten patients with consciousness disorders are wrongly diagnosed as being a vegetative state. Houben, although not specifically mentioned, was part of the study.
2. 2. Advanced technology saved the day here.
More searching finally got her in touch with Laureys, who put Houben through a PET scan that indicated he was conscious. The family and doctors then began trying to establish communication.
A breakthrough came when he was able to indicate yes or no by slightly moving his foot to push a computer device placed there by Laureys' team.
Then came the spelling of words using his finger and a touch-screen attached to his wheelchair.
Houben has started writing a book on his experiences.