Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Progress for Man Who Spoke After 10-Year Coma

Doctor Says Brain-Injured Firefighter Is Responsive but His Condition May Fluctuate
WebMD Health News

May 4, 2005 -- Buffalo, N.Y., firefighter Donald Herbert is all over the news, having uttered his first words in a decade after suffering a severe brain injury while fighting a fire in 1995.

Herbert's doctor, Jamil Ahmed, MD of the University at Buffalo, tells WebMD that Herbert is medically stable and "much better than before. He is definitely out of the coma. He's responsive, answering in 'no' or 'yes' with me, and moving all the extremities and shaking the hand."

Ahmed says Herbert's family says Herbert has been more communicative with them, asking his wife, "How are you doing?" and asking about his condition.

The change came about three months after Ahmed prescribed medications targeting chemicals in the brain, including norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. The names of the medications were not disclosed, in keeping with the wishes of the Herbert family. Ahmed says the drugs are "mostly given to people who have attention problems, cognitive problems, Parkinson's disease, and mood disorders."

Ahmed also told WebMD that Herbert's condition may fluctuate. "He is not continuously answering questions and talking. It's never happened before -- a big change for him. We are hoping he should progress more."

On Saturday Herbert spoke his first words in a decade. According to media reports, he asked for his wife and was able to have conversations with his family.

In December 1995, Herbert reportedly went without oxygen for several minutes after being trapped under a collapsed roof while fighting a house fire. The father of four is now in his 40s.

Speaking after such a long silence imposed by brain injury is "rare," says neurologist Nancy Childs, MD, of Texas NeuroRehab Center in Austin. But "recovery" might not be the right word for it, she says.

"What we're really talking about with this patient and a couple of the others that have been in the news is recovery of speech for a period of time," Childs tells WebMD, emphasizing that she does not know the particulars of Herbert's case.

"As far as disability status and what they can do -- moving and walking and transferring from a bed to a wheelchair or standing -- as far was we know those sorts of functions have not changed in these people," says Childs.

"They remain in the severe disability category. That doesn't detract from the fact that something really unusual has happened when they start talking," she says.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix