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Man back from 19-year coma

By Masood Haider

NEW YORK, July 4: A man woke up from coma induced by his fall from a pickup truck 19 years ago, says a medical journal report. Terry Wallis' 'resurrection of sorts' has rekindled hope for such patients' recovery.

Doctors now, armed with latest brain-imaging technologies, think they may know part of the reason he revived, says the Boston Globe in which the story appeared first.

Mr Wallis showed few outward signs of consciousness, but his brain was methodically rebuilding white matter, the infrastructure necessary to interact with the outside world, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Monday. "It's a … very slow self-healing process," said Henning Voss, lead author of the study and a physicist at Weill Cornell Medical College's Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center.

Mr Wallis emerged from a minimally conscious state in 2003 at the age of 39 and his first word since Ronald W. Reagan was in the White House was: 'Mom.' Since then, the one-time mechanic from Big Flat, Arkansas, has regained the ability to form sentences and recovered some use of his limbs, though he still cannot walk or feed himself.

In a minimally conscious state, a patient shows intermittent signs of awareness but is generally unable to interact with the outside world. It is a less severe condition than a persistent vegetative state.

Researchers found that cells in relatively undamaged areas had formed new axons.

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