Man Conscious During Apparent 23 Year Coma

A woman in Belgium says her son was in what some doctors thought was a vegetative state, but that he now says he was fully conscious for 23 years, and couldn't respond because he was paralyzed.

Doctors believed that a car accident left Rom Houben in a vegetative state, unable to understand what was going on around him. But after doctors at the University of Liege reevaluated his case, they discovered he was totally conscious. And during that time, he heard every word spoken near his hospital bed, but wasn't able to let people know.

Therapy has made him able to communicate with the help of a computer system. He has described the horror of screaming to doctors that he could hear them, without a sound ever coming out of his mouth.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by debra Location: kinston on Nov 25, 2009 at 11:05 AM
    Have to agree with Myra...less money and time should be spent on studying the moon ( and such ) and take care of our immediate backyard first.
  • by Audra Location: SoCal on Nov 24, 2009 at 08:14 PM
    Do I really have to use Stephen Hawking as an example of why we don't have the right to judge what someone else's definition of quality of life is?
  • by Tad Location: washington on Nov 24, 2009 at 07:14 PM
    I have nothing to substantial to add about the implications of a person communicating after so long in cases like Ron Houben. However please notice what the woman in the video footage on MSNBC dr.Nancy is doing. It is called FC or facilitated communication. It is long be discredited for being a way for patients in these physically challenged people to communicate. So the obvious question is: how did MSNBC determine that Ron Houben or the facilitator that is communicating? If it is the facilitator that is doing the typing, then there is no story.
  • by Mom Location: NC on Nov 24, 2009 at 05:05 PM
    To Devil's Advocate - What do you propose his parents do? Easy to have an opinion until its your child your talking about. Just because he does not fall into the realms of what you would consider 'normal' does not mean his life is worthless and without meaning.
  • by pete Location: grifton on Nov 24, 2009 at 04:57 PM
    This is why I have a living will.I am truly sorry for this man and his family,but I would never won't to live in that state.I am ready to go anytime.I believe in the lord and that matters most.Be ready you never know when your time is up.
  • by devil's advocate Location: winterville on Nov 24, 2009 at 03:59 PM
    this story is ridiculously being misinterpreted- there is a great difference between brain death and coma. Being conscious does not make a good quality of life. I saw no proof that the patient was thinking anything. it looked to me like his assistant was "typing for him". I think this "researcher" is using this ridiculous display as a way to make a name for himself. Who would want their child to live like that-fed through tubes and bedridden???
  • by shelton Location: washington on Nov 24, 2009 at 03:15 PM
    i'm sure not many will agree with me on this, but they should have pulled the plug a long time ago on this man. what kind of life is he going to have? people shouldn't be kept alive by machines, this world is overpopulated as it is.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2009 at 12:07 PM
    I think it's interesting that so many ppl acknowledge that the majority of those around them are less responsible, or handle life situations poorly.. but still think that those same ppl would be any better at handling our health care. The funny thing about a govt run program, it's run by our govt, which means it's run by popular vote or a majority.. I'm sorry, but I don't want my, or my children, nor anyone's health care determined by any sort of politics or popularity. I want to have an opportunity to work my butt off to take my child to the best physician I can possibly afford. And the best physicians aren't going to stick around to settle for what the govt wants to pay, they'll retire or go where people will pay for what they get. Help for ppl that need it is one thing, but overhaul and govt control is NOT ok. The comment about God wanting us to not "selflessly contribute" is asinine at best. Contribute selflessly by all means, but the GOVT has no right to REQUIRE it of anyone.
  • by Wow Location: Greenville on Nov 24, 2009 at 11:14 AM
    Sarah - are you kidding me?? Do you seriously think God would say, "I don't want everyone to selflessly contribute to help provide a universal health care system to provide care to every single person." Yeah, God only cares about people that can afford it, right? These people live in a country with socialized health care. This family only needed to worry about their son's condition, not how they were going to pay for it. In the US, chances are that he would have had the plug pulled on him long ago and even if he had insurance, would have still wound up leaving the family bankrupt and unable to care for him. As for Terry Schiavo, her brain was shown on MRI to be little more than a lump of mush. An autopsy performed after her protracted death of starvation showed that without doubt, almost her entire brain was liquid mush - impossible for her to communicate, think or remember. She was basically a brain-dead person kept alive by machines and what was left of her brain stem.
  • by Audra Location: SoCal on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:29 AM
    Coma and brain death are not the same thing. A coma victim shows some brain activity, even though it may be significantly reduced & requires close observation in severe cases. Brain death is the end of all brain activity in an irreversable state. Coma, or probably more precisely the trauma that caused it, can lead to brain death but it's not a given. This story isn't a surprise to me in the least. It's not the first time someone has come out of it & said "Uh guys... I could hear you." I've always been mindful of what is said at the bedside of a supposedly "unconscious" person for this reason. More people should be aware of it because anything negative can be discouraging to the patient and affect the outcome of recovery. Never assume that the sleeping are truly absent. You'll embarrass yourself and possibly cause more harm.
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