NPR logo For 23 Years Man Thought To Be In Coma Tried To 'Scream', And No One Heard

For 23 Years Man Thought To Be In Coma Tried To 'Scream', And No One Heard

"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear."

That chilling quote comes about half-way through a Guardian story today about Rom Houben, who for 23 years was thought to be in a vegetative state, but in fact was conscious — though he could not communicate.

Houben, now 46, is being cared for near Brussels. In 1983, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed and unresponsive. Doctors thought, as Sky News explains, that he was in a coma.

In reality, Houben was conscious and could hear what was being said by those around him. It wasn't until recent years, however, that doctors used state-of-the-art imaging equipment to determine that his brain was active. Now, after several years of therapy, Houben can tap out messages on a computer with is right hand — which has limited movement.

What was it like all those years?

"All that time I literally dreamed of a better life," Houben tells Sky News. "Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt. I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me — it was my second birth."

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