June 4, 2007


Polish Man Wakes Up From 19 Year Coma

By Pamela Mortimer



Jan Grzebski, a railway worker who spent 19 years in a coma after receiving head injuries while attaching two railway cars, has returned to the world.



Call it a miracle, call it a love story, or call it a sign of faith. After 19 years in a coma, Jan Grzebski, age 65, of Dzialdowo, Poland, is once again able to speak and move.


Specialists believed that the coma, which left Grzebski paralyzed and without speech, was something from which the patient would never recover. Doctors also found the presence of cancer in the brain, which drastically reduced his chances of survival.


Despite the doctors' bleak prognosis, Gertruda Grzebska, 63, never gave up hope. For 19 years, she cared for her husband at home, fed him with a spoon and moved his body to prevent bed sores. 


"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."


Last October Jan was afflicted with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized once more. It was then that the doctors saw 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 promoted more recovery. After 19 long years, Jan can speak and moves his arms and feet.


"At the start, his speech was very unclear, now it is improving daily," said Wojciech Pstragowski, a rehabilitation specialist. "I am sure that without the dedication of his wife, the patient would not have reached us in the (good) shape that he did." Although Jan spends his days in a wheelchair, Pstragowski predicts that he will walk again.


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

"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."


Naturally, Grzebska has a lot of catching up to do. Much has changed since he last saw his beloved country.

Pstragowski said that Grzebski was shocked at the changes in Poland, especially the differences in its stores: "He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only". Poland shed communism in 1989 and now boasts democracy and a market economy.


"He was so amazed to see the colorful streets, the goods," Gertruda said. "He says the world is prettier now".