A young man who was injured in an all-terrain-vehicle accident woke from his coma and showed signs of life just minutes before he was to be disconnected from life support, Dateline NBC reports.
Zack Dunlap suffered a broken collarbone, multiple skull fractures, and “absolutely catastrophic” brain injuries when his four-wheeled off-road vehicle flipped over.
After tests revealed no blood flow to Dunlap’s brain, doctors determined he met the legal and medical requirements for declaring someone brain-dead.
Dunlap’s family decided to remove him from life support, and a medical team prepared to harvest Dunlap’s organs for donation. Oklahoma authorities were informed of his death, while friends and family were told to gather at the hospital to say their goodbyes.
Dunlap’s grandmother, Naomi Blackford, went in and prayed for him. She said to Dateline NBC that she was asking for “Just a miracle. That he was too young for God to take him. It wasn't time.”
Dunlap’s cousin Christie Coffin, a nurse, said, “I sat there and I just said to him, ‘Zack, if you're in there, if you can hear me, ask God to help you.’ And I mean it probably wasn't 10 minutes later, I started getting this different feeling in my gut. And I thought, ‘he's not ready.’”
Another cousin who is also a nurse, Dan Coffin, thought the monitor recording Dunlap’s vital signs showed signs of improvement. On a hunch he pulled out his pocketknife and scraped Dunlap’s foot from his heel to his toes.
Dunlap jerked his foot, but the attending hospital nurse believed it was only a reflex. Dan Coffin then stuck his fingernail beneath Dunlap’s fingernail, which provoked a purposeful movement, a sign of brain activity.
Doctors immediately resumed medical treatment. Dunlap opened his eyes after five days, and was taken off a ventilator two days later.
The following week Dunlap began responding to his neurosurgeon and spoke his first words to his parents. Dunlap’s mother, Pam, said, “He looked around, and he said, ‘I love you’.”
He began taking steps later that day.
Dunlap’s trauma surgeon said he had no medical explanation for his recovery, and said all procedures were followed.
Doctors insisted the tests administered to Dunlap were accurate, and said the hospital would have detected his renewed vital signs before any organs were harvested.
Forty-eight days after being declared dead, Dunlap returned home, where Dan Coffin presented him with the pocketknife that proved he was still alive.
“I had heard of miracles all my life. But I had never seen a miracle. But I have seen a miracle. I've got proof of it,” said Dunlap’s grandmother.
“We both feel that God has some big plan for Zack. We'll do everything in our power to help him pursue it -- whatever it is,” said Dunlap’s mother, Pam.
Dunlap said he did not remember the accident, but he does remember the doctor declaring him dead. “I heard it and it just made me mad inside,” he said.
Amal Moorad, medical director of the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City where Dunlap recuperated, explained the patient’s prognosis. “Anytime you have severe brain injury, you'll never be the same again from a mental, emotional standpoint,” he said.
“Zack will be very close to normal, but not 100 percent, and only time will tell us.”
Dunlap has resolved to pursue fishing. “No more 4-wheeling,” he told Dateline NBC.
Zack Dunlap's interview on Dateline NBC can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4syekkzT0po