Man Wakes From 19-Year Coma, Speaks to Family

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 9, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Man Wakes From 19-Year Coma, Speaks to Family

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 9, 2003

Mountain View, AR ( — Terry Wallis fell into a coma 19 years ago following an automobile accident, but surprised his family and doctors June 12 by waking from it and speaking.

"He started out with ‘Mom’ and surprised her and then it was ‘Pepsi’ and then it was ‘milk.’ And now it’s anything he wants to say,” Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center social director Alesha Badgley told the AP Tuesday.

He was able to talk a day later and has been speaking more and more since.

Angilee Wallis says her sons recovery from the coma is a miracle. "I couldn’t tell you my first thought, I just fell over on the floor,” she said.

Wallis, now 39, was riding with a friend in July 1984 when their vehicle swerved off the road and fell into a creek. Authorities found Wallis and a friend the next day under a bridge. Wallis was comatose and his friend had died.

Wallis’ daughter Amber was born shortly before the accident and this if the first time he has been able to speak to her.

Mary Jane Owen, the director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, told, "I rejoice that his family had the patience to keep on loving him and recognizing that there was someone there, even when others might have killed him prematurely."

"Whether Terry Wallis experienced a miracle or this return to consciousness was due to the more complex reality that there are mechanisms which allow the body over time to heal itself, seems less important than the fact that our knowledge is very limited in terms of those of us who live with neurological disabilities," Owen explained.

Terry seems to be stuck in time. Though he is now talking nonstop, he thought Ronald Reagan was still president and asked to speak with his grandmother, who passed away years ago.

He was in a deep sleep for months following the accident but he communicated with noises or movements.

Terry spent most of his time at the Stone County Rehab Center and his family took him out on weekends and special occasions. "The doctor said that’s why he remembers things, we might have kept his mind going."

"He’s my husband, I married him for better or worse, thick or thin, ’til death do us part," Terri’s wife Sandi said.

"There was just no way I could give up hope on him."