"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear" - Macleans.ca

“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear”

Man believed to be in coma suffers in silence for 23 years


A Belgium man misdiagnosed as being in a hopeless vegetative state for 23 years was in fact conscious, though he had no way of letting his doctors know he was suffering. Rom Houbens, a martial arts enthusiast and engineering student, was paralyzed after a 1983 car crash. Three years ago, he was correctly diagnosed after a re-evaluation of his case showed his brain function to be almost normal. Houbens, who remains in constant care facility, recalls waking up after the accident: “I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,” he says. “I became a witness to my own suffering as doctors and nurses tried to speak with me until they gave up all hope.” Now able to tap out messages on a computer screen, he calls the proper diagnosis his “second birth.” Neurologist Steven Laureys, who led the re-examination, believes there are many other similar cases of misdiagnosis around the world.


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“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear”

  1. I’m surprised he didn’t go crazy. I’d imagine it’d be very easy to fall into a deep and terrible depression if you were left in that state for decades.

  2. I'm sure he was in a deep and terrible depression. I'm thus extremely impressed with this man's strength of will.

  3. I guess we'll never know whether Terry Sciavo was trying to scream at the doctors when they decided to remove her feeding tube and let her starve to death.

  4. Reminds me of that creepy 1990 Metallica video for "One". As for Terry Schiavo, which I'm surprised the Telegraph article doesn't mention, were the CAT scans and other tests she underwent not as thorough as the brain scans Mr. Houbens eventually had? The article seems to imply that medical staff only based their diagnosis of him based on eye and motor response and didn't give him any brain scans until after 20 years in his state. Schiavo underwent numerous neurological scans, and no way was ever found to communicate with her or elicit any kind of response.