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Man Wakes From Coma After 19 Years

By: MSNBC.com edited by Marguerite Jordan Email
By: MSNBC.com edited by Marguerite Jordan Email

June 4
10:30pm

WARSAW, Poland - A railway worker who emerged from a 19-year coma woke to a radically altered Poland and thinks "the world is prettier now" than it was under communism, his wife said Sunday.

Gertruda Grzebska, 63, said that for years she fed her husband Jan carefully with a spoon and moved his body to prevent bed sores.

"For 19 years he did not move or say anything," Grzebska told The Associated Press by phone. "He tried to say things, but it couldn't be understood. Sometimes we pretended we understood."

"Now he spends his days sitting in a wheelchair, and last weekend we took him out for a walk in his wheelchair," she said.

"He was so amazed to see the colorful streets, the goods," she said. "He says the world is prettier now" than it was 19 years ago, when Poland was still under communist rule.

"I could not talk or do anything, now it's much better," Jan Grzebski, 65, told TVN24 Television in a weak but clear voice, lying in bed at his home in the northern city of Dzialdowo.

"I wake up at 7 a.m., and I watch TV," he said, smiling slightly.

Wojciech Pstragowski, a rehabilitation specialist, said Grzebski was shocked at the changes in Poland — especially its stores: "He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only" under communism. Poland shed communism in 1989 and has developed democracy and a market economy.

‘This is my great reward’
Despite doctors' predictions that he would not live, his wife never gave up hope and took care of him at home.

"I would fly into a rage every time someone would say that people like him should be euthanized, so they don't suffer," she told local daily Gazeta Dzialdowska. "I believed Janek would recover," she said, using an affectionate version of his name.

"This is my great reward for all the care, faith and love," she told the AP, weeping.

"He remembers everything that was going on around him," she said. "He talks about it and remembers the weddings of our children. He had fever around the time of the weddings, so he knew something big was taking place."

Head injuries plus cancer
In 1988, when Poland was still run by a communist government, Grzebski fell into a coma after sustaining head injuries as he was attaching two train carriages. Doctors also found cancer in his brain and said he would not live. Grzebski's wife took him home.

Last October he fell sick with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized again, Grzebska said.

Doctors' efforts led to the first signs of recovery.

"He began to move and his speech was becoming clearer, although I was the only one to understand him," she said.

Intensive rehabilitation brought more effects.

"At the start, his speech was very unclear, now it is improving daily," said Pstragowski, who predicted his patient would soon walk. "I am sure that without the dedication of his wife, the patient would not have reached us in the (good) shape that he did."


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