Waking Up From Vegetative State After Head Injury

Testimony by: 

Manimaran, 29 year old, Singapore

Manimaran remained in a coma after motorbike accident in 2008. He had operations in a government hospital in Singapore to remove blood clot in the brain. Six months later he was still in a coma. He opened his eyes but stared only blankly and did not respond to us at all (in a vegetative state). His doctor in the hospital said nothing further can be done.

We sought help from Dr Timothy Lee. He advised a lumbar puncture to measure the pressure of the water in the head. It was high as he suspected. He then advised a small shunt operation. After the operation, Manimaran smiled at us for the first time. One month after operation, he moved his head and opened his eyes and looked at us. Three months after surgery he started making sound but still unable to talk.

One day when the mother touched him, he scolded and swore at her. The mother felt hurt and cried. She told the home helper the next day. The home helper was surprised and said that meant he could talk now. The mother called her sister and asked her to drop everything and come home quickly. She arrived home to find Manimaran able to call her name.

Now he can joke with us and move his right arm. He is so different now compared with the time when we were told that there was no hope of waking up from coma. The road to recovery is still long and hard but with the support of the extended family, we are sure he will be better.

Editor's comment: The happiness on the family members face is the best reward for a doctor. Excessive water accumulation in the head can impede the recovery. In some case as in Manimaran's, draining the water can result in good improvement.