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Dan Speers

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Boxes Lie Waiting, TBI and Coma


     Boxes Lies Waiting is an intricate mystery invollving TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), comas and a condition known as  locked-in syndrome. In the novel, a man is hospitalized as comatose after suffering a brain injury. As he recovers, he is mentally alert and able to understand everything that goes on around him, but only gradually does he begin to realize that his mind is trapped inside a body that has become its own coffin.


     He is buried alive in a paralyzed body.


      Although written as fiction, Dan's decription of such a patient was eerily confirmed when an actual case came to light--that of a Belgian car-crash victim who lay in a hospital bed for 23 years in what was believed to be a coma.


     Diagnosed as being in a vegetative state and unable to communicate because he was paralyzed, no one knew that Rom Houben was aware of everything going on around him.


     Day after day, year after year, Houben remained in a nursing home in Brussels fully aware but helpless.


     Finally, a doctor did a brain scan three years ago and discovered Houben's cerebral cortex was firing away.


     Houben said of that day, quote, "It was my second birth." The now-46-year-old Houben is now concious, able to communicate and was recently given a computer and a special keyboard to converse with the world.


     Recounting his internal torment during those years, he now says, "I screamed, but there was nothing to hear." 


     "I was shouting, but no one could hear me," Houben told the German magazine Der Spiegel.

     His physician, Dr. Steven Laureys, says as many as four out of ten coma patients may be similarly misdiagnosed.A doctor at Belgium's University of Liege used a specialized brain scan not available in 1983 to determine in 2006 that Houben was conscious.


     Houben now communicates using one finger and a touchscreen on his wheelchair.


     "Powerlessness. Utter powerlessness. At first I was angry, then I learned to live with it," he said, punching the message into the screen during an interview with the Belgian RTBF network.


     "He lives from day to day," says his 73-year-old mother, Fina. "He can be funny and happy," but is also given to black humor.


     His condition is known as locked-in syndrome, which Dan drew upon in writing his novel, Boxes Lie Waiting, and which was explored in the French memoir, Le scaphandre et le papillon by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who wrote about his life after suffering a massive stroke that lapsed into a coma, a story told in the book and film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.


     One of the major difference between Dan's fictional character and the Belgian patient is that Dan's character happens to overhear an adulterous nurse and a sexy intern who have sex nightly sex in an adjoining bed plop the murder of the woman's unsuspecting husband. The question arises: How does a patient in a coma prevent a murder? 

Conscious but paralysed:
Belgian 'coma' case not unique


BRUSSELS — The story of a Belgian patient wrongly diagnosed as comatose for 23 years revives the debate on care for those considered in a vegetative state, with the astonishing case far from unique according to a recent study.

     Rom Houben, the victim of a road accident in 1983, was believed to be in a vegetative state but was in fact paralysed and unable to communicate.

Houben's true condition was discovered three years ago when new tests at the University of Liege, led by Professor Steven Laureys, found that his brain was still functioning.

 . . .

     The state, which has various levels, is known as "locked-in syndrome" and a recent study carried out in Belgium discovered that doctors get their coma diagnosis wrong "in numerous cases."


Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.


 Read Complete Story here


Man says through aide leaving coma like rebirth

The Associated Press - Raf Casert - ‎12 minutes ago‎
BRUSSELS — With a caretaker holding his hand, a Belgian man who was diagnosed as comatose for 23 years typed out a message Tuesday that he felt reborn after ...

Belgian Man Alert but Mute for 23 Years

The Associated Press - ‎44 minutes ago‎
A Belgian man, thought to be in a vegetative state for 23 years, says he was alert but unable to communicate. The doctor who discovered Rom Houben's normal ...

Doctor in 'coma' case re-examining dozens more patients - ‎50 minutes ago‎
The doctor credited with giving a Belgian man a new lease of life after he was wrongly believed to be in a coma for 23 years has said he is re-examining ...

Man in false 'coma' plans memoirs - ‎59 minutes ago‎
ROM Houben, a Belgian man who was wrongly diagnosed as comatose for 23 years, is planning to write a book about his extraordinary story, the doctor who ...

Conscious but paralysed: Belgian 'coma' case not unique

AFP - ‎2 hours ago‎
BRUSSELS — The story of a Belgian patient wrongly diagnosed as comatose for 23 years revives the debate on care for those considered in a vegetative state, ...

"It Was My Second Birth"

CBS News - ‎4 hours ago‎
After 23 years in a coma, a Belgium man had an amazing awakening and says he was conscious while in the coma. Elizabeth Palmer reports. ...

Trapped 'coma' man: How was he misdiagnosed?

CNN International - Mark Tutton - ‎6 hours


Man in Coma for 23 Years Heard Everything (blog) - Jeremy Thurman - ‎3 hours ago‎
Imagine being trapped in your own body. When you think of being trapped the first thing that may come to mind is being confined, now think about the only ...

Man diagnosed in coma for 23 years, was awake all along

The News Chronicle (blog) - Richard Neil Ilagan - ‎12 hours ago‎
A Belgian man who got into a car accident 26 years ago and diagnosed as having fallen into a coma, had been awake all along. Rom Houben, now 46, ...

Man thought to be in a vegetative state was conscious the entire time

ProLife Blogs (blog) - ‎Nov 23, 2009‎
By plb on November 23, 2009 10:11 AM | No Comments For 23 years doctors said that Rom Houben was in a vegetative state and not aware of his surroundings. ...

Man Conscious Throughout 23-Year Coma

Popular Fidelity (blog) - Ron Hogan - ‎Nov 23, 2009‎
Rom Houben was given up for dead. After a horrific car crash in 1983, he sank into a coma. Since then, every time he's been administered the Glasgow Coma ...

Rom Houben, Man In Coma For 23 Years, Was Fully Conscious, Mom Says

Huffington Post (blog) - ‎Nov 23, 2009‎
BRUSSELS — A mother says her son has emerged from what doctors thought was a vegetative state to say he was fully conscious for 23 years but could not ...

Doctors learn that man was awake for 23 years in a como (blog) - ‎2 hours ago‎
Rom Houben, a 46-year-old Belgian who doctors believed was in a coma, caused by a car crash in 1983, had in fact been conscious for 23 years. ...

One in four 'coma patients' may be conscious, says expert

Calcutta Tube (blog) - ‎6 hours ago‎
London, Nov 24 (IANS) The doctor who discovered a Belgian patient presumed to have been in a deep coma for 23 years while being conscious all along has said ...

Man in Coma for 23 Years: I Was Alert

AOL News Newsbloggers (blog) - Raf Casert - ‎16 hours ago‎
AP BRUSSELS (Nov. 23) -- For 23 torturous years, Rom Houben says he lay trapped in his paralyzed body, aware of what was going on around him ...

Patient rescued from 23 years in 'coma' was conscious all through

India Business Blog (blog) - ‎Nov 23, 2009‎