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Trapped In A Coma For 20 Years, Her First Words Stunned Her Parents

The Hutchinson News

When Sarah Scantlin left a nightclub with her friends in 1985, it seemed like she had a bright future ahead of her.

Scantlin was a freshman at the local community college in Hutchinson, Kansas, where she had recently made the drill team. The college student had also landed a good job at a local clothing store, so she hit the town with her friends to celebrate.

Scantlin as a teenager.The Hutchinson News

But on the way back to her car, a drunk driver collided with Scantlin, knocking her into the path of another oncoming car.

The teenager was rushed to the hospital, but her condition was dire. Her skull had been crushed, her leg was twisted, and she quickly fell into a coma.

For the next two decades, all Scantlin could do was breathe on her own. Doctors warned her parents that Scantlin would probably communicate with them again.

The Hutchinson News

Eventually, Sarah's family taught her to blink once for "no" and twice for "yes," but her responses were so hesitant it was unclear if she even understood them.

Then one day, Scantlin's parents got an incredible phone call from their daughter's care home.

"Hi mom," said a husky voice.

"Sarah, is that you?" Scantlin's mother Betsy asked.


"How are you doing?"


"Do you need anything?" her mother asked.

"More makeup."

"Did she just say more makeup?" Betsy asked incredulously.

That was just the beginning of Scantlin's totally bizarre recovery.

Scantlin had started speaking again in January 2005, but waited until just before Valentine's Day to tell her parents, with a little help from her care workers.

The Hutchinson News

Betsy confessed to CBS News that “I didn’t think it would ever happen, it had been so long.” Even doctors were surprised by Scantlin's recovery, which they describe as "extremely unusual."

The best guess is that over time, Scantlin's brain repaired itself, bringing back her speech.

But Scantlin's family quickly learned she had been conscious almost the entire time she was in the coma. She even knew a little about the outside world thanks to the soap operas and news reports that played in her TV room.

"Sarah, what's 9/11?" asked her father Jim.

"Bad…fire…airplanes…building…hurt people," she responded.

Her brother asked if she knew what a CD was, and she told him there was music on it. But when they asked Scantlin her age, she guessed she was 22, not 38. Her nurses think she spent the entire coma thinking it was still the 1980s.

While Scantlin used a wheelchair and suffered from muscle spasms for the rest of her life, she continued to talk. She was re-introduced to old friends from around Hutchinson, and confirmed that she remembered them from before her accident.

Hutchinson News

Scantlin survived another 12 years, before dying from respiratory failure at age 50.

What an unbelievable story!

[H/T: NBC, CBS, The Hutchinson News]

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