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Brain-Damaged Woman Talks After 20 Years

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 1110 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... BRAIN-DAMAGED WOMAN TALKS AFTER 20 YEARS By Roxana
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2005
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      By Roxana Hegeman
      Associated Press
      February 13, 2005


      HUTCHINSON, KANSAS - For 20 years, Sarah Scantlin has been mostly oblivious
      to the world around her - the victim of a drunken driver who struck her down
      as she walked to her car. Today, after a remarkable recovery, she can talk

      Scantlin's father knows she will never fully recover, but her newfound
      ability to speak and her returning memories have given him his daughter
      back. For years, she could only blink her eyes -- one blink for "no," two
      blinks for "yes" -- to respond to questions that no one knew for sure she

      "I am astonished how primal communication is. It is a key element of
      humanity," Jim Scantlin said, blinking back tears.

      Sarah Scantlin was an 18-year-old college freshman on Sept. 22, 1984, when
      she was hit by a drunk driver as she walked to her car after celebrating
      with friends at a teen club. That week, she had been hired at an upscale
      clothing store and won a spot on the drill team at Hutchinson Community

      After two decades of silence, she began talking last month. Doctors are not
      sure why. On Saturday, Scantlin's parents hosted an open house at her
      nursing home to introduce her to friends, family members and reporters.

      A week ago, her parents got a call from Jennifer Trammell, a licensed nurse
      at the Golden Plains Health Care Center. She asked Betsy Scantlin if she was
      sitting down, told her someone wanted to talk to her and switched the phone
      to speaker mode:

      "Hi, Mom."

      "Sarah, is that you?" her mother asked.

      "Yes," came the throaty reply.

      "How are you doing?"


      "Do you need anything," her mother asked her later.

      "More makeup."

      "Did she just say more makeup?" the mother asked the nurse.

      Scantlin still suffers constantly from the effects of the accident. She
      habitually crosses her arms across her chest, her fists clenched under her
      chin. Her legs constantly spasm and thrash. Her right foot is so twisted it
      is almost reversed. Her neck muscles are so constricted she cannot swallow
      to eat.

      The driver who struck Scantlin served six months in jail for driving under
      the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.

      Scantlin started talking in mid-January but asked staff members not to tell
      her parents until Valentine's Day to surprise them, Trammell said. But last
      week she could not wait any longer to talk to them.

      "I didn't think it would ever happen, it had been so long," Betsy Scantlin

      Scantlin's doctor, Bradley Scheel, said physicians are not sure why she
      suddenly began talking but believe critical pathways in the brain may have

      "It is extremely unusual to see something like this happen," Scheel said.

      The breakthrough came when the nursing home's activity director, Pat Rincon,
      was working with Scantlin and a small group of other patients, trying to get
      them to speak.

      Rincon had her back to Scantlin while she worked with another resident. She
      had just gotten that resident to reply "OK," when she suddenly heard Sarah
      behind her also repeat the words: "OK. OK."

      Staff members brought in a speech therapist and intensified their work with
      Sarah. They did not want to get her parents' hopes up until they were sure
      Sarah would not relapse, Trammell said.

      On Saturday, Scantlin seemed at times overwhelmed by the attention. Dressed
      in a blue warm-up suit, she spoke little, mostly answering questions in a
      single word.

      Is she happy she can talk? "Yeah," she replied.

      What does she tell her parents when they leave? "I love you," she said.

      Family members say Scantlin's understanding of the outside world comes
      mostly from news and soap operas that played on the television in her room.

      On Saturday, her brother asked whether she knew what a CD was. Sarah said
      she did, and she knew it had music on it.

      But when he asked her how old she was, Sarah guessed she was 22. When her
      brother gently told her she was 38 years old now, she just stared silently
      back at him. The nurses say she thinks it is still the 1980s.

      Her father, Jim Scantlin, understands that Sarah will probably never leave
      the health care center, but he is grateful for her improvement.

      "This place is her home ... They have given me my daughter back," he said.


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