The Space Needle is My Neighbor

"A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Woman Awakens For 3 Days After 6 Years

Slips back into vegetative state after speaking with her family

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A woman who went into a vegetative state more than six years ago awoke this week for three days and spoke with her family and a local television station before slipping back.

“I’m fine,” Christa Lilly told her mother on Sunday — her first words in eight months. She has awakened four other times for briefer periods since suffering a heart attack and stroke in November of 2000. “I think it’s wonderful. It makes me so happy,” Lilly told television station KKTV-TV. She also got to see youngest daughter, Chelcey, now 12 years old, and three grandchildren.

Before her relapse on Wednesday, Lilly told the station her biggest frustration was learning how to talk again. After years of being fed from a tube, eating was no problem. “I’ve been eating cake,” she said. Her neurologist, Dr. Randall Bjork, said he couldn’t explain how or why she awoke.

“I’m just not able to explain this on the basis of what we know about persistent vegetative states,” he said. A vegetative state is much like a coma except Lilly’s eyes remain open. Bjork said that he’s never seen a similar quality of awakening.

Bjork said that unlike the much publicized case of Terri Schiavo, Lilly is minimally conscious. He said she could awake again. After Lilly relapsed her mother and caregiver Minnie Smith said: “The good Lord let me know she’s alright, he brings her back to visit every so often and I’m thankful for that.”

When I saw this article today, of course I knew that I had to post it. It's kind of ironic, considering how it echoes my current difficulties with being able to communicate, albeit in a much more profound manifestation. For her, it's a very real and very serious situation, unlike my mere inability to assemble my thoughts into a coherent piece for this site as often as I once did. Whatever would it feel like to exist in her world? I do love the fact that she got to have cake and I hope she was able to savor every bite. It kind of reminds me of Warren Zevon's philosophy at the end of his life: "Enjoy every sandwich". Perhaps some day soon she can come back to her family and stay for a very long time and have a sandwich AND cake, and feel the love that surely surrounds her.


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