Firefighter Who Awoke From Coma Dies Donald Herbert, a firefighter from Buffalo, N.Y., who awoke from a 10-year coma last year, died today. Herbert, 44, was thrust into the spotlight when he suddenly awoke from a coma and talked to his family for 14 hours. Retired fire lieutenant Patrick Coghlan talks with Melissa Block about Herbert's dramatic but temporary recovery.
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Firefighter Who Awoke From Coma Dies

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Firefighter Who Awoke From Coma Dies

Firefighter Who Awoke From Coma Dies

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

A firefighter from Buffalo, New York, who had been in a coma for nearly a decade and then had a startling awakening, died today. Donald Herbert was 44. He suffered serious brain damage while fighting a fire in 1995, and was minimally responsive ever since.

Then last spring, after he had put on a new combination of drugs, Donald Herbert suddenly asked where his wife Linda was. He continued talking with his family for 14 hours straight. Doctors considered it an extremely rare recovery. Family and friends were shocked.

Mr. PATRICK COGGLIN (ph) (Buffalo Fire Department): I got a call from two of the guys that were working with me that night, and they're going Patty, we're going out to see Danny. He's talking. I says, come on, no. No, he says, we're talking. We're on the 219 going out to see Danny. He says, I'll call you when it's over with. So they called later and he says, yeah, we talked to him. He recognized me and everything else.

BLOCK: That's Patrick Cogglin, a retired lieutenant of the Buffalo Fire Department. He was fighting the same house fire with Donald Herbert when Herbert was injured. Cogglin went to see his friend at the nursing home the day after he started talking again.

Mr. COGGLIN: He was fatigued. He was beat. He had been up all night, from what I understand, talking with his family and renewing acquaintances. And I guess he renewed the acquaintance with his youngest son, who when he got hurt was like four, and now he was 14 or 15, and his wife, and his mom, the family got together. But by the time we saw him that Sunday afternoon, he was like dead on his feet, literally.

So he was sitting up and he looked good. Two weeks later when we went to see him, his mother was there and she's going, Danny, there's somebody here that you used to work with. Patty is here. And he goes, as clear as a bell -- I'll never forget this -- Cogglin. And, you know, it's been eight, nine years, and all of a sudden my last name comes out. That floored me. But that was the last time I had seen Danny.

And I'm sorry to say I didn't keep track. I did ask a few times, but I didn't bother the family, and I felt it wasn't my prerogative or my post to be looking to see where he was.

BLOCK: And I gather that the family has said that he never got that same level of lucidity again. It was a one-time thing.

Mr. COGGLIN: From what I understand, that is correct, yes.

BLOCK: Lt. Cogglin, how do you remember Don Herbert?

Mr. COGGLIN: I remember Danny as a good firefighter. He would put his all into the job. And after it was all over with, we'd joke around about it and things like that. But he was a good firefighter, and that he was. He was also a good family man. He cared for his children, his wife, his parents. So the best thing I think I can say for Danny is he was a good fireman and a good family man.

BLOCK: That's Patrick Cogglin, retired lieutenant with the Buffalo, New York fire department, remembering firefighter Donald Herbert who died today after developing pneumonia. He was 44.

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