The case of Terry Wallis, an Arkansas man who suddenly woke up from a 19-year long coma, has raised new questions about the death of Terri Schiavo, who died last year after a court ordered her feeding tube to be disconnected.  Wallis fell into his coma in 1984 after a serious car accident.  At the time he was 19.

According to, the doctors who have studied the Wallis case have published their initial conclusions in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  The report explains that during the car accident Walls’ nerve connections in his brain were severed, putting him in a minimally conscious state and rendering him a quadriplegic. A young husband with a newborn child, Wallis was considered a hopeless case, especially considering that his family could not pay the $120,000 needed to consult a neurologist about any possibility of recovery. However in 2003, during one of the regular visits of his mother, who had regularly visited him at the Rehabilitation Centre in Mountain View, Arkansas, he made what seemed a sudden recovery, and spoke “mom”, his first word in 19 years.

Imaging expert Henning Voss and neurologist Nicholas Schiff of the Weil Medical College at the University of Cornell believe Wallis’ brain “rewired itself” and slowly re-grew the nerve connections that were devastated as a result of his accident.

Doctors at Wallis’ rehabilitation center believe the recovery is due in part to visits by his family, which could have acted as a kind of mental therapy for his recovery.

“He now seems exactly like his old self,” says Jerry Wallis, Terry’s father. Over the 19 years of Terry’s coma, both Jerry and his mother Angilee had doubts at some time or another about whether or not it was better for Terry to be alive. However, now both are glad they never caved into those doubts. Since then they have seen their son make strides in his recovery with the ambition of walking for his daughter. “He very often tells us how glad he is to be alive,” says Terry’s father. noted that the Wallis case stands in stark opposition to the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who received no therapy from her philandering husband after her 1990 collapse. She was instead dehydrated to death by court order in March 2005. Although some doctors claim that Terri Schiavo could not have made Terry Wallis’ recovery since she was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), witnesses such as former nurse Carla Iyer maintained that with therapy, Schiavo, who said words like, “mommy, help me”, could have indeed recovered over time.

In a BBC interview Dr. Ralf Clauss, a scientist in nuclear medicine and one of the drug researchers, stated that, “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’.”