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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Progress for Man Who Spoke After 10-Year Coma

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

'Slow Process' continued...

"Several months ago, there was a woman in Kansas who began to speak after 20 years. It doesn't mean that they're 'waking up' after that period of time. It means certain things are beginning."

The woman in Kansas that Demato referred to is Sarah Scantlin. Her brother, Jim Scantlin, shared her story with WebMD.

In September 1984, Sarah Scantlin was a pedestrian crossing a street when a drunk driver hit her. She lingered in a coma for five or six weeks, then entered a minimally conscious state, says Jim Scantlin of Fayetteville, Ark. Unlike Herbert, Sarah Scantlin did not suffer from oxygen deprivation to her brain.

"We never knew if she knew it was us [in the room with her] or not," says Jim Scantlin.

In January of this year, Sarah Scantlin started talking, he says. For a few weeks, she declined to talk to her parents, probably because she wanted to practice talking first, says Jim Scantlin.

Then, on Feb. 4, she talked by phone to her mother and father. The staff at Golden Plains Health Care Center -- a nursing home in Hutchinson, Kan. -- put her on speaker phone. "She can't hold a phone," says Jim Scantlin.

'Someone Wants to Talk to You'

Later that day, Jim Scantlin was surprised to see his wife show up at his office. He hadn't yet heard about Sarah Scantlin phoning home. "There was a conference call going on, and my wife said, 'Someone wants to talk to you.' I couldn't make out what was going on. Beth grabbed my arm and said, 'It's Sarah.' I said, 'Sarah?' and she said hello."

"Pretty much everything after that was a blur. She counted and said she's doing fine and that she missed me and loved me. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or what. My whole body went numb," says Jim Scantlin.

Since then, Sarah Scantlin has told people she knew about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, says Scantlin. Those events happened while she was in the minimally conscious state.

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