In medicine, a coma is a state of extreme unresponsiveness, in which an individual exhibits no voluntary movement or behavior. In a deep coma, a person may be unable to respond to painful stimuli and normal reflexes may be lost.
However, when a person is in a coma, they have slowed electrical brain activity and have a neurological deficit. Additionally, someone who is in a coma may not be able to respond to voices, sounds, or other activity going on around them, and depending on the severity of the case, it could take weeks, months, and maybe years before the person “wakes up”.
According to the Neurological Institute of New York, the cause of coma can be divided into two main categories: a structural coma, which is caused by trauma, bleeding, and stroke; or toxic/metabolic, which is caused by a drug overdose or a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Ben McMahon, an Australian man, suffered from a structural coma due to a car accident, but what happened after he woke up will surprise you.
Australian Ben McMahon studied Mandarin in high school but is the first to admit he was far from fluent. Then, after a car crash left him in a coma his parents feared he would never come out of it.
Luckily McMahon pulled through, but something strange happened upon his awakening — he only spoke Mandarin. Fluent Mandarin. It took him several days to regain his English-speaking abilities, and the Mandarin was there to stay.
McMahon’s Mandarin-speaking friends say he is the best non-native speaker they have ever heard. He has co-hosted a Chinese TV show, led Mandarin tours of Melbourne, and is attending university in Shanghai where he now lives.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Pankaj Sah says there is a likely explanation for what happened, but that it isn’t 100% provable. Sah explains the brain is a mass of electrical circuits. McMahon’s English “circuits were damaged,” so when he woke up his “Mandarin circuits got engaged” like they never had before.
McMahon considers himself very blessed to have not only made it out of the coma, but also to have such a positive silver lining from it all. Despite all of our modern knowledge, the human brain is truly one of the last unknown frontiers on this Earth. Amazing.