Entries in Coma (12)


Soy Sauce Overdose Sends Teen into Coma

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A 19-year-old survived a dangerous sodium overdose after drinking more than a quart of soy sauce on a dare, according to a case study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

After drinking a quart of the sodium-heavy condiment, the teenager slipped into coma with seizure-like activity. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering from hyponatremia, a metabolic condition in which there is a salt imbalance in the bodily fluids.

Eventually doctors determined that he had ingested 160 to 170 grams of sodium from the soy sauce, a potentially lethal dose for his weight and build. He had effectively overdosed on sodium.

“He didn’t respond to any of the stimuli that we gave him,” Dr. David J. Carlberg, who treated the patient as an emergency room physician at University of Virginia Medical Center, told LiveScience. “He had some clonus, which is just elevated reflexes. It’s a sign that basically the nervous system wasn’t working very well.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, severe hyponatremia can result in excessive sodium in bodily fluid, which causes excess water to flow into cells to balance sodium levels. While some cells can handle the swelling, in brain cells, the excess swelling can lead to neurological damage or death. Other symptoms include mental confusion, convulsions, fatigue, and nausea.

While in the past, doctors slowly lowered sodium levels in patients suffering from hyponatremia in order to protect the body from further shock, in this case doctors worked quickly to lower the patient’s sodium level as soon as possible to protect his brain. They quickly tried to flush the salt from his system with a water-and-sugar-based solution in an effort to protect his brain from lasting damage.

Eventually the doctors were able to stabilize the patient, even though he remained in a coma. After three days he woke up from the coma without suffering any lasting neurological damage.

While death from sodium is incredibly rare, it is not unheard of. According to the case study’s authors, in ancient China, salt overdoses were one traditional way to commit suicide.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Man Survives Brutal Beating to Become Marathon Runner

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Runners usually celebrate a race after crossing the finish line, but for Bryan Steinhauer, just being able to stand at the starting line is a victory.

Five years after a brutal attack left him comatose and unlikely to walk again, the 26-year-old Steinhauer will join thousands of runners during April's New York City half-marathon.

In 2008 Steinhauer was just a few weeks shy of graduating from Binghamton University when he was attacked by Binghamton basketball player Miladin Kovacevic in a bar off campus. During the attack Kovacevic kicked and stomped on Steinhauer's head, fracturing his skull in multiple places and putting him in a coma that lasted months.

Kovacevic fled the country for his homeland of Serbia, where he ended up pleading guilty to “inflicting severe bodily harm” on Steinhauer. He was sentenced to 27 months in jail in 2010.

Steinhauer’s recuperation has been arduous. Waking up from the coma was just one step on his long road to recovery. Due to severe brain damage, he had to learn to walk and talk again.

But it was his time in physical therapy that put him on the path to running a half-marathon.

“My first time running was in physical therapy, just trying to walk at a good pace,” Steinhauer told ABC station WABC-TV. “After my physical therapy I just kept it up at the treadmill at the gym. Then I came to the park, the beautiful park, and said ‘Cool, I’ll run here.’”

Running 13.1 miles is just the start of Steinhauer’s racing aspirations. This fall he plans on joining more than 40,000 runners for the New York Marathon, which has a 26-mile course.  He is also raising money for “Minds Over Matter,” a foundation he established at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to help people who have suffered traumatic brain injury.

“I’m a success story, I’m not a victim,” Steinhauer said. “So here I am to prove it to you. To prove it to the world.”


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Neuroscientist Sees 'Proof of Heaven' in Week-Long Coma

Pixland/Thinkstock(LYNCHBURG, Va.) -- It's dinnertime at the Alexander home, in Lynchburg, Va.

Holley Alexander is serving chicken curry, 14-year-old Bond is hungry after soccer and the dad, Dr. Eben Alexander, leads the family in prayer.

In this home, saying grace is different these days. This family has been touched by a medical miracle -- and maybe more.

"It was impossible after impossible after impossible that all these things happened," Alexander said in an interview with Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran.

Alexander, a Harvard neurosurgeon, nearly died four years ago when a ferocious E. coli meningitis infection attacked his brain and plunged him deep into a week-long coma. Brain scans showed his entire cortex -- the parts of the brain that give us consciousness, thought, memory and understanding -- was not functioning. Doctors gave him little chance to live and told his family that if he did survive he'd probably be brain-damaged for the rest of his life.

"Nurses would come in, and they would pull his eyelids back, shine in the flashlight, and his eyes were just off and cocked," Holley Andersen said. "It's just like no one was there."

Against all odds, Alexander woke up a week after being stricken. But he believes Holley was right: He wasn't there.

Deep in coma, his brain infected so badly only the most primitive parts were working, Alexander claimed he experienced something extraordinary: a journey to heaven.

"In every sense, of the word that's what my experience showed me," Alexander said.

"My first memories from when I was deep inside: I had no language, all my earthly memories were gone," he said. "I had no body awareness at all. I was just a speck of awareness in kind of a dark, murky environment, in roots or vessels or something. And I seemed to be there for a very long time -- I would say years."

"I was rescued by this beautiful, spinning, white light that had a melody, an incredibly beautiful melody with it that opened up into a bright valley," he added, "an extremely verdant valley with blossoming flowers and a just incredible, rich, ultra-real world of indescribable complexity."

Alexander said there was a young woman who soared across time and space with him on a butterfly wing and gave him a message to take back from heaven.

"She looked at me, and this was with no words, but the concepts came straight into mind: You are loved; you are cherished; there's nothing you have to fear; there's nothing you can do wrong," he said.

God was there as a vast presence of love, Alexander said, and Alexander understood God through an orb of brilliant light.

"It was all of eternity and all of conscious existence," he said. "But it was this brilliant orb of light that was almost as necessary as a translator to bring in that message from the divine and the incredible."

After he recovered, Alexander, who was adopted, was shown a picture by his biological family of a sister he had never met or seen before. He recognized the sister as the young woman from heaven.

"I looked up at that picture on my dresser that I had just got and I knew who my guardian angel was on the butterfly wing," he said. "It is the most profound experience I've ever had in this life."

Of course, many would call Alexander's experience a hallucination -- but not him.

"I know this is not a hallucination, not a dream, not what we call a confabulation," Alexander said. "I know that it really occurred, and it occurred outside of my brain."

It was a near-death experience -- like those reported by thousands of others. But Alexander was determined to prove scientifically that it happened.

In his new book, Proof of Heaven, he raises and then strikes down various hypotheses on how his journey could not happen.

Alexander said he is scientifically certain that his stricken brain could never have produced the images and ideas he experienced -- or remembered them.

"If you would have asked me before my coma, How much will someone who is in coma for a week with a severe bacterial meningitis -- so severe that the sugar level ... around my brain, normally around 60-80 and in a bad meningitis maybe down to 20; in my case it went down to one -- to me, that's just one piece of evidence of how severe this was. If you'd ask me how much would that patient remember, I'd say nothing," he said. "They wouldn't remember a single thing. ...The severity of the meningitis would have prevented dreams, hallucinations, confabulations, because those things all require a fairly coordinated amount of cortex."

Alexander isn't fazed at all by the skeptics. He was one, too.

Now he has "proof of heaven," he said.

"For me, it's become clear that the best way to look at it is to turn it around and realize that consciousness exists in a much richer form, free and independent of the brain, which has everything to do with the eternity of our souls and the fact that our awareness, our consciousness, our soul, our spirit, does not depend on the existence of the brain in the physical universe. In fact, it's freed up to a much richer knowing when we're outside."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 


North Carolina Dad Battles Hospital for Guardianship of Comatose Son

Fred Lempe looks in on his comatose son Freddie at a hospital in Raleigh, N.C. (WTVD/ABC News)(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- A North Carolina father is embroiled in a legal battle with a hospital that wants to assume guardianship of his comatose son.

A hearing was held on Tuesday to determine who will make the medical decisions for Freddie Lempe, 18, of Smithfield, N.C. The teenager has been in a coma since a car accident on March 6, 2011.

Lempe was in the passenger seat of a car that spun out of control on Highway 39 in Johnston County, N.C., throwing him out of the car. While the driver walked away with only minor injuries, the accident left Freddie with both brain and spinal cord trauma.

Now, WakeMed, the Raleigh hospital in which he has been receiving care for over a year, has filed a suit in Wake County Courthouse to replace Lempe's father as his legal guardian to ensure that the overwhelming amount of paperwork is completed so that the teenager is eligible for Medicaid.

Freddie Lempe does not have Medicaid coverage -- which reimburses hospitals -- for his care.

"The intent of the guardianship request is to secure Medicaid coverage for which we believe Freddie is eligible," said Heather Monackey, spokesperson for WakeMed. "As written in the court documents, the father has not followed through in filing the appropriate paperwork to get Medicaid approved."

She said that while WakeMed often files for guardianship, it's usually as a result of patients who do not have health care advocates.

Monackey said the hospital is seeking to appoint a third party to advocate for Lempe, and that the hospital would not assume guardianship because it would be a conflict of interest.

"In this case, it is the patient's right to have the financial resources offered by Medicaid. Our intention in seeking a guardianship change is to make sure that the patient has access to these resources," she said.

Monackey said that WakeMed will withdraw the guardian modification request if Mr. Lempe completes the Medicaid application.

A lawyer for the elder Lempe could not be reached for comment at this time.

Lempe's father has created a petition on Facebook to stop WakeMed's attempts to remove him as his son's guardian.

Blair Williams, the chief assistant clerk of court in Wake County who oversaw the hearing, said that Wake County deals with more guardianship issues than any other court in the state.

Williams said that while Mr. Lempe appears to be his son's best advocate, being a guardian is a full-time job.

"Typically when we're doing these hearings, a re-occurring pattern might be that the individual is all of a sudden thrust into an arena where they're not used to having to access all the different community resources that are available."

Williams said the issue at hand is whether or not an individual's guardian is aware of all of the things a particular ward may need.

"If you're a full time care provider, I don't know of any human who would be able to give the type of care that they would need to on a full-time basis without any breaks," he said. "When you're faced with day-to-day decisions for your ward, it's tough to get outside of that and look at the bigger picture.

"It takes a lot of resources to be a good guardian, and a lot of people kind of think that this is what they should be doing. They have all the good intentions and it just ends up being a very difficult job to do," he said.

Williams ruled that Mr. Lempe should be allowed to serve as his son's guardian until July 25, when "hopefully, he would be able to demonstrate that he has been able to plug into everything that Freddie would need."

"There's no one who could care about you more than a family member," he said. "But on the other hand, we're also blessed with having very well educated and caring health care professionals within Wake County to give these guardians assistance."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Adele Song Wakes Girl from Coma

Dan MacMedan/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Adele has set records and won dozens of awards for her 2011 album, 21.  Now, there is a 7-year-old girl who is said to have woken up from a life-threatening coma when Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” came on the radio.

Charlotte Neve suffered a brain hemorrhage on April 13 and was in a coma for a week, The Daily Mail reported.  She underwent two surgeries, but doctors warned her family the odds weren’t in the girl’s favor.  They believed even if she survived, she wouldn’t see or speak again.

Neve soon took a turn for the worse, and doctors told her mother, Leila, to say her final goodbyes. That, said The Daily Mail, is when “Rolling in the Deep” came on the radio.

Leila, 31, started singing the song.  She and her daughter had often sung it together.

Neve smiled.  It was the first time she had shown any reaction to anything since falling into the coma.  The paper says doctors were astounded.  

Within two days, the young girl had started speaking and had even managed to get up from her bed, The Daily Mail said. They played the song on a loop after that, and soon Neve woke up.

Neve’s friends and family set up a Facebook group, “Lottie Loo’s Get Well Wish,” chronicling her progress.  Photos posted to the group show Neve laughing and playing, first in her hospital bed, then out in the world.  A video posted to the Facebook group shows her singing along to the song that miraculously brought her back.

Neve’s recovery has been speedy.  She’s partially blind and she suffers from memory loss, but she’s already back in school part-time and taking dance classes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Robin Gibb's Coma Recovery Not So Unusual, Docs Say

Frank Hoensch/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Robin Gibb's spectacular recovery from a coma has "confounded" even his doctors, his rep says, but doctors say while there is still much that is unknown about comas, advanced testing and new aggressive treatments mean many more patients stand a chance of waking up from them.

"Waking up from a coma is not as unusual as some people think," Dr. Jennifer Berkeley, a Baltimore-based neurologist who specializes in neuro critical care, told ABC News. "It always depends on the cause. When people don't wake up is usually when they've had a specific injury. When they are very ill medically, like Robin Gibb, it can go either way."

In Gibb's case, the news was good. The Bee Gee awoke from his coma over the weekend and is showing signs of recovery.

"Robin is fully conscious, lucid and able to speak to his loved ones. He is breathing on his own, with an oxygen mask. He is on intravenous feeding and antibiotics. He is of course, exhausted, extremely weak and malnourished," Dr. Andrew Thillainayagam, his physician and gastroenterologist, said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Gibb has advanced colorectal cancer and had received aggressive chemotherapy treatment as well as two emergency operations in the space of two months, Thillainayagam said. In his weakened condition, he developed pneumonia but failed to respond to intravenous antibiotics. He was transferred to intensive care, where he fell into a coma.

"The prognosis was very grave, given that Robin had brain swelling from liver failure, a severe pneumonia and a weakened immune system from malnutrition," Thillainayagam said in his statement. "Only three days ago, I warned Robin's wife, Dwina, son, Robin-John and brother, Barry, that I feared the worst. We felt it was very likely that Robin would succumb to what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to any form of meaningful recovery. As a team, we were all concerned that we might be approaching the realms of futility.

"It is testament to Robin's extraordinary courage, iron will and deep reserves of physical strength that he has overcome quite incredible odds to get where he is now," the statement continued.

Perhaps so, but "miraculous" recoveries like Gibb's are becoming more common.

"There are still cases where we are confounded, but we have moved away from just standing there and feeling helpless and a lot of guesswork," said Dr. Romer Geocadin, a neurologist who specializes in neuro critical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. "If we can get it at the right time, there are real hopes. We're starting to see the benefits of aggressive care."

Geocadin said in the case of a coma -- a state in which a person is unable to respond to internal and external stimulation -- doctors first look to see what is impairing the person's arousal and begin treating the underlying causes.

"For instance, if it's just an issue of oxygenation or a drop in blood pressure, you start correcting those to see if the brain will take that up and nourish itself back again," Geocadin said.

In Gibb's case, his doctor said they treated his acute medical problems "very aggressively."

As for the road to full recovery, Thillainayagam is making no promises.

"The road ahead for Robin remains uncertain but it is a privilege to look after such an extraordinary human being," he said in his statement.

"I tell all my patients it's a long bumpy road," said Berkeley, adding that research has found that patients coming out of a coma after a widespread infection are never cognitively exactly as they were before.

And with an underlying disease, like metastatic colon cancer, Gibb will continue to be susceptible to recurrent pneumonia and other infections.

No doubt, he will be relying on his family to help him through, as they did while he was in a coma. According to Thillainayagam, Dwina and Gibb's three children, sons Robin-John and Spencer and daughter Melissa were at his bedside every day, talking to him and playing his favorite music.

"They have been tireless in their determination never to give up on him," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kansas Teen Shot Hoops in Meningitis-Induced Coma

Margaret Meier(NEW YORK) -- Teen basketball star Maggie Meier had perfect free-throw form, even when she was in a coma.

In the fall of her freshman year of high school, Meier got meningitis, a bacterial infection that spurred swelling in her brain and sparked terrifying seizures in the healthy student athlete.

"I'll never forget it," said Meier's mom, Margaret, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse. "Her eyes rolled back, and I knew what was happening. It was terrifying."

That seizure, the first of 20 that night, marked the start of a 100-day hospital stay for then-14-year-old Meier of Overland Park, Kan., most of which she spent in a coma.

"Seeing her every day, not getting any better, it was horrible," Margaret said, detailing the tubes that delivered nourishment and life-saving medications to her unresponsive daughter. "But she would do things that would make us know she was still there."

Although Meier couldn't talk or walk in her trancelike state, she could still shoot hoops.

"She would wake up for two to five minutes and shoot the ball, then be completely out of it again," said Margaret, describing the perfect swish of a beach ball through the makeshift net of Meier's sister's arms. "That's when we knew we were going to get her back, and get her back all the way."

Meier's neurologist, Dr. William Graf, said he'd never seen anything like it.

"It was just incredible," said Graf, now a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. "She couldn't walk or eat, had no basic functions, but still had this perfect shooting motion. It was engrained."

The severe swelling in Meier's brain had disrupted the connections between nerve cells, and there was no guarantee those connections would ever be restored.

When Meier's immune system cleared the infection and she finally woke up, she had to re-learn everything -- how to walk, talk, read and behave -- from scratch.

"She was very childlike," said Margaret Meier, describing the tendency of kids to, "just say whatever they want" without inhibition. "All those social things you learn over years and years, she had to re-learn. And she had some aggressive behaviors, especially towards me."

Over two months of intensive rehab, and with the unwavering support of her parents and five siblings, Meier slowly came back.

"It wasn't easy," her mom said, recalling the violent outbursts and the need to install special locks on all the doors. "It was months and months of intense work."

Five months after she was hospitalized, Meier returned to Blue Valley Northwest High School, where she got one-on-one instruction from a special education teacher as well as physical and occupational therapy. Her spot on the basketball team bench was lovingly marked with a sign and her teammates wore beads on their shoes with her initials.

"Basketball was hugely important in her recovery," said Margaret. "It's been such a major part of her life since third grade, and she always wanted to get back to it."

And in her sophomore year, she did, earning a spot on the Huskies' junior varsity team. The next season, Meier joined the varsity squad. And on Monday, her high school's Senior Night, the 17-year-old was part of the starting lineup.

"To see where she is now, after what she's been through," said Margeret, voice shaking, "she's just such a great kid."

In the fall, Meier will start college at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where she plans to major in nursing or special education. Whether Meier will play college ball is still up in the air, given her undoubtedly hectic class schedule and busy social life. But her mom is confident she can do anything she puts her mind to.

"If she wants to play ball, we'll be behind her 100 percent," she said. "We're so proud of her."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Woman Induced Labor for Dying Husband to Hold Baby

ABC News(THE COLONY, Texas) -- Savannah Aulger will never have snapshots with her father on her first birthday, on Christmas or at a school event.

The only picture she will ever have of them is the one as sweet as it is heartbreaking. Hooked up to an oxygen mask at the hospital, the man she would call dad cradled her in his arms for 45 minutes.

He sobbed. He smiled. And there was no doubt that he loved her.

"He would talk to my stomach when I was pregnant," Diane Aulger said of her husband. "He was so excited for her."

The next day, Mark Aulger slipped into a coma.

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The Aulger family of The Colony, Texas, had a lot to rejoice about in the weeks before Savannah's Jan. 18 birth, which was induced two weeks early so her father could hold her.

A home movie on Christmas showed a pregnant Diane, 31, handing out gifts to the couple's four children, the oldest of whom is 15. Mark, 52, who had just received the news that he had beaten cancer, played the guitar, providing a soundtrack for the Christmas morning festivities.

On Jan. 3, life threw a curveball.

Mark was admitted to the hospital, unable to breathe.

Doctors told him that eight months of chemotherapy had ravaged his lungs and diagnosed him with pulmonary fibrosis. "We thought he could get on steroid treatment and oxygen and live for years," Diane said.

But on Jan. 16, Mark found out those treatments would be fruitless. He had one week left to live.

"He was awake and alert, himself. I really didn't believe the doctor [at first]," Diane said. "The next day his doctor came in and said, 'When are you going to have this baby?'"

On Jan. 18, in a larger-than-normal delivery room, Mark rested in his bed, a supportive presence for Diane as their baby girl entered the world.

"The day she was born his oxygen levels were really high," Diane said. "He held her for 45 minutes. Him and I just cried that whole time."

As Diane was recovering, Mark tried holding his daughter again the next day, but was only able to last one minute. "He just couldn't take it," Diane said.

The devoted husband and father of five slipped into a coma. "If she cried, he would shake his head and moan. I put her on him when he was in the coma a few times and his hand would move toward her," Diane recalled.

On Jan. 23, with his family by his side, Mark died in his hospital bed.

"The kids go on as if dad is really still here," Diane said. "Mark was a very funny guy. My kids still tell jokes how they would when he was around. He would have been a wonderful daddy to Savannah."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poised to Donate Organs, 21-Year-Old Emerges From Coma

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Sam Schmid, an Arizona college student believed to be brain dead and poised to be an organ donor, miraculously recovered just hours before doctors were considering taking him off life support.

Schmid, a junior and business major at the University of Arizona, was critically wounded in an Oct. 19 five-car accident in Tucson.

The 21-year-old's brain injuries were so severe that the local hospital could not treat him. He was airlifted to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Phoenix, where specialists performed surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm.

As hospital officials began palliative care and broached the subject of organ donation with his family, Schmid began to respond, holding up two fingers on command. Today, he is walking with the aid of a walker, and his speech, although slow, has improved.

Doctors say he will likely have a complete recovery. He even hopes to get a day pass from the hospital to celebrate the holidays with his large extended family.

"Nobody could ever give me a better Christmas present than this -- ever, ever, ever," said his mother, Susan Regan, who is vice-president of the insurance company Lovitt-Touche.

"I tell everyone, if they want to call it a modern-day miracle, this is a miracle," said Regan, 59, and a Catholic. "I have friends who are atheists who have called me and said, 'I am going back to church.'"

Schmid's doctor, renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler, agreed that his recovery was miraculous.

"I am dumbfounded with his incredible recovery in such a short time," said Spetzler. "His recovery was really remarkable considering the extent of his lethal injuries."

Hospital officials are crediting Spetzler with having a "hunch" that despite an initially dire prognosis, the young man would make it. But he said it was "reasonable" for others to consider withdrawing the patient from life support.

"It looked like all the odds were stacked against him," said Spetzler, who has performed more than 6,000 such surgeries and trained the doctor who operated on Congressman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot at the beginning of this year.

During surgery, Spetzler clipped the balloonlike aneurysm in the blood vessel -- "as if I were patching a tire," a procedure that eventually worked.

For days Schmid didn't seem to be responding, but what puzzled his doctor was that he did not see fatal injuries on the MRI scan. So he decided to keep Schmid on life support longer.

"There was plenty wrong -- he had a hemorrhage, an aneurysm and a stroke from the part of the aneurysm," Spetzler said. "But he didn't have a blood clot in the most vital part of his brain, which we know he can't recover from. And he didn't have a massive stroke that would predict no chance of a useful existence."

So while the family was given a realistic picture of Schmid's poor chances for survival, Spetzler ordered one more MRI to see if the critical areas of the brain had turned dark, indicating brain death.

"If not, we would hang on and keep him on support," he said. "But I didn't want to give the family false hope."

Schmid's mother said no one "specifically" asked if her son would be a donor, but they "subtly talk to you about quality of life."

"At some point, I knew we had to make some sort of decision, and I kept praying," said Regan.

The MRI came back with encouraging news during the day and by evening Schmid "inexplicably" followed the doctors' commands, holding up two fingers.

"It was like fireworks all going off at the same time," said Spetzler.

Today, Schmid -- his speech clear and sounding upbeat -- told, "I feel fine. I'm in a wheelchair, but I am getting lots of help."

He said he remembers nothing of the accident nor coming around after being in an induced coma. "It wasn't until I woke up in rehab," he said. "But they told me about afterwards."

Schmid was returning from coaching basketball at his former Catholic school when a van swerved into his lane. The Jeep in which he was riding went airborne, hit a light pole and landed on its side.

Schmid's left hand and both of his femurs broke and required surgery. But the worst were the traumatic head injuries, which were complex and nearly always fatal.

All those involved say the support that Schmid got from family and friends -- and especially the care at Barrow -- may have made the difference. His brother John, a 24-year-old IT specialist, took a leave of absence from his job in Chicago to be at his brother's bedside.

Family flew in from around the country, and Delta Chi fraternity brothers made regular visits, even creating a mural for their friend.

"It seems like we were being led down a path to plan for the worst and that things were not going to work out," said John Schmid. "The miracle, to put it bluntly, was that in a matter of seven days, we went from organ donation to rehab. What a roller coaster it was."

He said his brother's speech is slow, but he understands what others are saying. Sam Schmid's athleticism -- as a basketball coach and snowboard instructor -- probably helped, he said.

"Honestly, I am at a loss for words," said John Schmid. "I am just so proud of Sam. He's got a strong constitution and he's very determined. But it's been quite an eye-opener for me -- a real learning curve. You can't take anything for granted."

Sam Schmid's surgeon agrees.

"You get incredible highs when you save someone facing neurological devastation or death," said Spetzler. "That is counter-pointed by the incredible lows when you fail to help someone."

"In a way, his recovery was truly miraculous," he said. "It's a great Christmas story."

Ever the scientist, Spetzler wasn't willing to speculate what a comatose patient hears. But he admits, "There are so many things we don't understand about the brain and what happens at the time someone is near death."

"The whole family was at his side during the day and at night hovering over him, then to see there was a chance after being ready to let go," he said. "But I am very much a big believer that positive thoughts and positive energy in a room can only help."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona: Comatose Illegal Immigrant’s Wife Fights For Care

Pixland/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- An Arizona woman is fighting for the life of her comatose husband, a Mexican immigrant in the process of becoming a citizen who collapsed playing soccer last week and fell into a coma. Since he is not a citizen, he is facing the prospect of being kicked out of the hospital.

His lack of health insurance and citizenship have put his wife in a difficult position. The hospital has given her one week to decide whether to take him home for hospice care or take him to Mexico for long-term care, according to ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV.

Jesus Cornelio, 23, was playing soccer on Sept. 19 when he collapsed on the field and was rushed to Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. His brain was without oxygen for more than 10 minutes, which doctors say caused severe damage to his brain.

At the hospital on Friday, his wife Evelyn Cornelio, a U.S. citizen, was told that her husband did not qualify for long-term care, KNXV reported. He has been in the United States for most of his life and is in the process of becoming a citizen, but is still an undocumented immigrant and not a permanent resident.

On Tuesday, the hospital gave her a one-week extension until Oct. 4 to decide what she will do with her husband.

“I’m not going to give up on him,” Cornelio told KNXV. “I see how much my husband is trying and not giving up, but all I see now is, who is going to pay for all these expenses?”

In a statement, the hospital said the following: “Banner Health continues to work closely with the Cornelio family as they evaluate the best care options for their loved one, Jesus.  Our focus remains on ensuring that Jesus continues to receive the best care possible. With respect to the family’s privacy we are unable to provide any additional information about this case.”

Even though Cornelio is in a difficult situation and does not yet know what she will do, she said she does know that she is not giving up on her husband.

“All his family is here. All his friends are here. He’s the love of my life. He’s my best friend. He’s my everything,” Cornelio said. “He’s healthy and he’s strong and he’s going to make it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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