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Patient trapped in a 23-year 'coma' was conscious all along

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By ALLAN HALL Last updated at 1:59 AM on 23rd November 2009

A man thought by doctors to be in a vegetative state for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time, it was revealed last night.

Student Rom Houben was misdiagnosed after a car crash left him totally paralysed.

He had no way of letting experts, family or friends know he could hear every word they said.


'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,' said Mr Houben, now 46.

Doctors used a range of coma tests, recognised worldwide, before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was 'extinct'.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.


    Mr Houben describes the moment as 'my second birth'.

    Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

    Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

    His case has only just been revealed in a scientific paper released by the man who 'saved' him, top neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys.

    'Medical advances caught up with him,' said Dr Laureys, who believes there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world.


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