A Chinese man has amazed his doctors after waking up from a five-year vegetative state. According to Metro UK, Li Zhihua, from Xiangyang in China’s Hubei province, fell into a serious coma in 2013 after he was hit by a speeding motorcycle while riding his scooter to work.
At the time, doctors told his wife, Zhang Guihuan, that her husband would be in a perpetually vegetative state and that she should hold no hope that he would ever revive. Nonetheless, Ms. Zhang decided to devote the next half-decade to care for her husband.
She would spend up to 20 hours each day talking to her husband, playing songs and even feeding him by placing food in his mouth. Due to the constant care, Zhang herself lost around 22 pounds and would only sleep two to three hours each day.
Nonetheless, her hard work paid off, as her husband woke up in late August.
“Wife, I love you,” were his first words.
He added that though he was unable to speak, he had been fully aware of his surroundings while in the coma. The man’s doctors were amazed by the turn of events.
“When he was taken to the hospital, he was in a vegetative state. He could not respond to anything,” said Dr. Wan Qing’an.
Doctors believe that Zhang’s care helped Li emerge from the coma, claiming that his nervous system had been stimulated by the music and conversation.
Li is currently making “great progress,” but he still needs to increase his range of movements to what it was before his brain injury. His wife is unsurprisingly still at his side, helping him walk and giving him massages to stimulate his muscles.
Li’s claim that he was fully aware of his surroundings comes as a number of researchers have questioned doctors’ diagnoses of vegetative patients. A study covered by Vice claimed that 40 percent of people who are supposedly in vegetative states are actually misdiagnosed.
Doctors are still reluctant to order brain imaging and diagnostic tests, but these are exactly the things necessary to not only show if the patient is conscious, but also guide treatment. It is a chilling development, as serious decisions — like the removal of care — are made on these misdiagnoses.
The focus of the Vice article, Juan Perez, said that he was fully aware of all conversations happening around him when he suffered a coma after choking on his own vomit in the middle of the night. But though he knew each nurse’s name, he could not control his body and was deemed vegetative. Doctors told his mother to take him off life support. Fortunately, she did not listen.
That said, doctors have pointed out that some patients who do show some signs of consciousness in various do not ever recover. Much about the area remains a mystery.
Neurologist Nicholas Schiff of Weill Cornell is working on a new protocol to see which patients are both conscious and likely to make a good recovery.
“The understanding of people who are doing this research is very clear,” he said. “We’re missing tons of people.”