Coma patient: “I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead,”

Brussels, Belgium, Nov 24, 2009 / 03:55 am (CNA).- A paralyzed man who was misdiagnosed as comatose for 23 years is again communicating with the world after new brain scans showed he was in fact conscious. A Catholic bioethics expert suggests the case shows the wisdom of Catholic teaching on the duty to provide sustenance for those believed to be comatose.

Rom Houben, a former martial arts enthusiast, was paralyzed in a 1983 car crash. The Daily Mail reports that his doctors in Zolder, Belgium used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his physical and verbal responses, but each time he was graded incorrectly.

“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,” said Houben, who after therapy now communicates with the aid of a computer. “I dreamed myself away.”

Three years ago, new technology scans showed Houben’s brain was still functioning almost completely normally. His case has just been reported in a scientific paper by the doctor who discovered the mistake, neurological expert Dr. Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital.

Laureys’ re-evaluation of Houben showed that the patient had lost control of his body but was still fully aware of what was happening.

“Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt,” Houben said. “I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me – it was my second birth.”

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