Imagine being in your body, unable to move or speak while the inner voice of your consciousness rages and roars to be heard. This is what happened to Rom Houben, a 46-year-old car crash victim who was misdiagnosed twenty-three years ago as being in a coma. It wasn't until improvements in modern technology led doctors to perform a scan of his brain that they dicovered Mr. Houben had been awake all along.
Mr. Houben was in a state of extreme paralysis with all signs pointing to the absence of consciousness, but in actuality his mind was very much active and trying to cast some sign to the doctors and nurses overseeing him, and to the friends and family that would visit, that he was awake. When he failed to make contact, his reality had to recreate around him, and he slipped into an altered state in which he "dreamed himself away": waiting for a day that may never come when those around him would realize that he was right there with them.
Mr. Houben's "second birth" (as he refers to the moment in which others realized he was awake) has brought up the possibility that there might be other cases like him--minds trapped in bodies, non-vocally screaming to be heard. His case also raises new questions about the existence of consciousness and states of being that blur the distinction between being alive and dead.
Image: "Crevasse", by Derrick T on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.