Family Of Brain Damaged Man Hear Him Speak For First Time In Ten Years

Feelings of both shock and joy are being felt by friends and family of a firefighter. After ten years of silence, he has spoken for the first time.

New York firefighter Donald Herbert had not spoken since a 1995 roof collapse left him with severe brain damage.

All of that suddenly changed. On Saturday, Herbert all of a sudden asked to speak to his wife.

Following Herbert's accident in 1995, he remained in a coma for two and a half months. He came out of the coma, but remained blind and speechless ever since. That was until Saturday, when he asked for his wife. What he thought was a few months of being cut off from the world was actually ten years. After finding out his toddler son was now 13years old, he couldn't believe it.

How common is it for someone to fully recover from such an ordeal? One Nacogdoches neurosurgeon says it's pretty rare.

"I'd say that's pretty uncommon. In my experience of about 20 years of being a neurosurgeon, that's a pretty uncommon situation to have. The majority of people who are ever in a coma don't necessarily ever regain any type of consciousness, much less awareness of what's going on around them," says Dr. J. Michael Randle.

Although Herbert has started speaking again, that doesn't mean he has fully recovered. Experts know permanent brain damage is common in coma patients.

"I've seen it happen where they're in a coma for several weeks at a time or, at least, in an almost comatose state or a semi-comatose state, and then respond. But it's usually not without some sort of brain damage," says Dr. Randle.

For now, Donald Herbert and his family are catching up on lost time. But it's still unclear what changes in his condition the future will bring.