Friday, March 09, 2007

Woman Awakens After 6 Years, Slips Back

A woman who fell into a coma after a heart attack more than six years ago awoke this week for three days and spoke with her family and a television station before slipping back into what her doctor calls a minimally conscious state.

"I'm fine," Christa Lilly told her mother on Sunday her first words in eight months. She has awakened four other times for briefer periods since suffering a heart attack and stroke in November of 2000.

"I think it's wonderful. It makes me so happy," Lilly told television station KKTV-TV. She also got to see youngest daughter, Chelcey, now 12 years old, and three grandchildren.

Before her relapse on Wednesday, Lilly told the station her biggest frustration was learning how to talk again.

After years of being fed from a tube, eating was no problem. "I've been eating cake," she said.

Her Colorado Springs neurologist, Dr. Randall Bjork, said Thursday a minimally conscious state is a step above a vegetative state. He said patients like Lilly first go into a coma, then a vegetative state and then a minimally conscious state.

Bjork said he could not explain why she awoke but said it could happen again. He said it was unlikely she would show much improvement beyond similar brief periods of lucidity because of the severity of her brain damage.

After Lilly relapsed her mother and caregiver Minnie Smith said: "The good Lord let me know she's all right, he brings her back to visit every so often and I'm thankful for that."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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