A Belgian man thought to have been in a coma for 23 years has
told of his "second birth" after doctors realised he was in fact
conscious, a German weekly reported Monday.
Medical staff at a hospital in Liege, eastern Belgium, believed
Rom Houben had been left in a vegetative state by a serious car
accident in 1983, but he was simply paralysed and unable to
The former engineering student and martial arts enthusiast, now
46, told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that he meditated to
pass the long years trapped in his own body.
Houben's true condition was discovered three years ago when new
tests at the University of Liege found that his brain was still
’I would scream but no sound would come out’
Using a specially-adapted computer to type messages, Houben has
been able to describe the ordeal he endured for more than two
"I would scream, but no sound would come out," he said, "I will
never forget the day they finally discovered what was wrong -- it
was my second birth."
He could hear what was being said around him throughout, but was
unable to respond.
"I became the witness to my own suffering as doctors and nurses
tried to speak to me and eventually gave up," he said.
The worst moment came when his mother and sister told him of the
death of his father and though he wanted to weep, his body remained
’I can live now people know I’m not dead’
Cut off from the world, he passed his time in thought.
"I dreamed of a better life all the time. Frustration is too
small a word to describe what I went through," he said.
His story emerged following an article in a medical journal by
the neurologist Steven Laureys, who told Der Spiegel that the
problem was it was very difficult to change a coma diagnosis.
"Every patient should be tested at least 10 times before they
are diagnosed as being in a vegetative state," he said.
But Houben's mother, Fina Houben, never gave up hope.
"I always knew our son was still there," she said.
Houben is still unable to move, but he can read thanks to a
device set up over his bed, and he communicates through a keyboard.
"I want to read, to talk to my friends with the computer and to
live life now people know I'm not dead," he said. – (Sapa, November 2009)