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May 24, 2006



Gattaca, here we come. Hooray for science!


Pedantic Classicist


This is just wonderful news! As the sister of a brother who was severely brain-damaged by encephalitis and died five years later, I know that we lived for this type of potential miracle. My brother was written off as that horrible word that describes carrots and onions out in the garden, but in the month before he died he suddenly started moving his left hand on command and crying again. I will forever be convinced that the pain he was feeling from an ulcer that was about to burst somehow triggered a chemical reaction in his body that brought him around. If we can just keep people in this state comfortable, fed and hydrated, and provide them with physical therapy so they don't stiffen up like poor Terri Schiavo, who knows what science will figure out to bring them back to us.

Speaking of which, I was so glad to read recently that Jeremy Hand, who some doctors said was hopelessly brain-damaged, is now responding more than could be imagined...except for those who believe in the power of prayer. Praise God.


The dramatic improvement occurs within 20 minutes of taking the drug, Zolpidem, and wears off after around four hours - at which point the patients return to their permanent vegetative state ....

I guess we need a new definition of 'permanent'.


An abstract of the Zolpidem research article can be found here:



Shortcut to that abstract:



I just had to come back and comment on another story I read about this research:

“For every damaged area of the brain, there is a dormant area, which seems to be a sort of protective mechanism. The damaged tissue is dead, there’s nothing you can do,” he explained. “But it’s the dormant areas which ‘wake up’,” per scientist, Dr. Ralf Clauss.

I just had a good cry all these 29 years later. My brother had a CAT scan 6 months after his brain was damaged by the virus and the doctors told us it was severely scarred and "Jimmy" was gone forever. We never believed that and always treated him as though he was understanding everything we said, just not able to communicate. To think that the essence of that sweet little boy was just lying dormant waiting to be unlocked...it just leaves me heartbroken that we couldn't wake him up in time. My only comfort is, to paraphrase Job, "The Lord gave him to us and the Lord took him away...Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Noah Nehm

This story reminds me of one in which John Hardon, as a young priest, enrolled a brain damaged young boy in the Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal. During his prayers, the boy was miraculously cured.

I'm not aware of any movement to have him canonized, but from all accounts Fr. Hardon was a very holy man. I can't help but think he would intercede for further healing on behalf of Jeremy.


Reminds me of the wonderful Robin Williams movie "Awakening" about treating patients who had been years suffering with catatonia with el-dopa (sp.)

Cried my eyes out on that one.


Whose idea was it to give sleep aids to the persistently vegetative?

The less charitable part of me wonders if there wasn't some hope that the subjects would just take the Big Sleep.


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