July 25, 2005


The Awakening: Sarah Scantlin's 20-Year Journey From Coma to Silence to Breakthrough (DeNeen L. Brown, 7/24/0, Washington Post)

Up Highway 96, sometimes called the State Fair Freeway, past the cliche of wheat fields, the thicket of signs proclaiming a right to life, take a left on 23rd Avenue and you will find a very plain nursing home, where something happened that wasn't supposed to happen.

Defied man-made logic.

Resisted complicated scientific analysis.

Couldn't be explained by some of the smartest brains in the world.

Still can't.

Sarah, lying in this bed nearly 20 years, brain-damaged, blank, speechless, immobile, staring out the same window. Couldn't talk to the people who came to talk to her. Couldn't say change the channel. Couldn't say shut up. Couldn't say scratch that itch . . .

Sarah, who 20 years ago was run down by a drunk driver, the impact throwing her into the path of a second car that slammed her forehead and left her so damaged nobody understood how her body survived, let alone her mind.

Sarah. They didn't know that as she lay in that bed, with her mouth gaping, face wretched in a silent agony, body atrophying, feet gnarling, fists clenched across her chest, tight, as if she were afraid, big, blue eyes staring out like she was trapped . . . They didn't know that as she lay there, something in her brain was mending.

People came and people went. Some grew up and some grew old. Some gave up and went away, guiltily diving into their own lives as Sarah Scantlin lay in that bed. Never believing she would do anything more than lie there and stare into oblivion, or wherever it is that brain-damaged people go, hovering between now and then, nowhere and somewhere, just out of reach.

Then six months ago, Sarah came back.

Sarah spoke.

Can't have them waking up later and cramping your style.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 25, 2005 10:03 PM

That is, indeed, a heart-warming story about the power of hope, determination, and nurturing. And a morality tale about the danger of giving up too quickly.

On the other hand, her brain injury was less massive than suggested by her behavioral limitations.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 26, 2005 12:24 AM

also clearly designed to disinter memories of the terri schiavo chazerai... 15 years would hardly qualify as "quick."

Posted by: lonbud at July 26, 2005 1:03 AM

lonbud -

Some would have euthanized her 15 years ago.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 26, 2005 1:18 AM

Unbelievable. My wife's aunt is currently in the same situation after she fell and the family is divided. We are the "I don't know" crowd but I am glad I stop by here today. A drink for you OJ. A Coke that is.

Posted by: Lan Nguyen at July 26, 2005 1:26 AM

My goodness, I think I'm going to cry ...

Perhaps her brain injury was less than that suffered by Terry Schiavo. All the same, it shows just how much we don't know about traumatic brain injury.

Posted by: Steve White at July 26, 2005 1:27 AM

Doing anything to the helpless for your own convenience is a grievous sin. Anyone who cannot see that is hopelessly lost.

Posted by: Randall Voth at July 26, 2005 5:21 AM

Of course the article feels the need to point out that her case was "nothing" like Terri Schiavo. My thought was that that's correct--Sarah didn't have a husband who wanted her dead...

Posted by: b at July 26, 2005 9:03 AM

Schiavo's brain had shrunk to the size of a lemon. It was dead.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 26, 2005 2:44 PM

She wasn't--she had to be murdered.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2005 3:11 PM


Did you see any pictures? Or does it have to be so?

Some people would say those with small hearts should be killed? What think?

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 26, 2005 9:27 PM

if there is room for ted kennedy and harry reid and hillary clinton, in this world, then there is room for terri schiavo.

Posted by: cjm at July 26, 2005 10:18 PM

Yes, jim, I saw a picture (CT scan) before the end and I read the autopsy after.

Except for bitterenders like Orrin and demagogues like Jeb Bush, you haven't heard much about Schiavo because the autopsy was devastating to their version of events.

We were promised, were we not, that the autopsy would show that the medical evaluations were wrong.

They weren't.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 27, 2005 1:21 AM

What can the autopsy have to do with whether we should have killed her? I know Darwinism requires that the unfit be done away with, but we needn't follow its dictates here. We know where it leads.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 1:53 AM

Nothing. That question was answered earlier.

And the autopsy can have no effect on people like you.

But most people react to evidence, if their noses are forced down to it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 27, 2005 12:55 PM


Your lot didn't need an autopsy to decide it was a live not worthy of being lived and unfit. For my lot the "quality" of the life can't matter.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 5:33 PM