About to be taken off life support, man wakes

The young man has been in a coma since being critically injured in a five-car crash in October that killed his friend and roommate.

A young man in a coma was unwittingly poised to give the ultimate this holiday season--his life, and with it, his organs. Instead, his mother became the recipient of the ultimate gift: his sudden recovery.

Sam Schmid just came out of a two-month coma. Barrow Neurological Institute

"Nobody could ever give me a better Christmas present than this--ever, ever, ever," his mother, Susan Regan, told ABC News this week.

Sam Schmid, a junior at the University of Arizona, suffered severe brain damage and broken femurs in a five-car accident in October that killed his friend and roommate.

ABC reports that Schmid was airlifted to the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where renowned surgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler (who trained the doctor who operated on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head earlier this year) performed emergency surgery.

"There was plenty wrong--he had a hemorrhage, an aneurysm and a stroke from the part of the aneurysm," Spetzler told ABC. "But he didn't have a blood clot in the most vital part of his brain, which we know he can't recover from. And he didn't have a massive stroke that would predict no chance of a useful existence."

Spetzler says he clipped the balloonlike aneurysm "as if I were patching a tire," which ultimately worked. And even though Schmid didn't respond, Spetzler didn't see fatal injuries in the MRI scan and suggested continuing life support.

Two months and no apparent progress later, the doctors and family were getting ready to take Schmid off life support. Spetzler ordered one more MRI to look for signs that critical brain matter had died. There weren't any.

That evening, doctors told Schmid to raise two fingers. He did. And he is now speaking--if slowly and slurred--and has been cleared for a day's leave from the hospital to celebrate Christmas with his family.

"It was like fireworks all going off at the same time," Spetzler said. "In a way, his recover was truly miraculous. It's a great Christmas story."

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About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.

 

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