COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The family of an Ohio man who returned to the U.S. comatose in April after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a car accident in the Republic of Georgia was given little chance of recovering by doctors who said they should be prepared to turn off his feeding tube within six months to a year.
Yet 38-year-old Zach Lawrence, of Dublin, Ohio, apparently wasn’t listening to the physicians at Ohio State University’s Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Center. He’s begun making sounds, keeping his eyes open and smiling at his children.
Some of the best evidence that he’s aware came when he was asked to respond with a push of a “yes” or “no” button to the question: “Do you like Michigan?” Ohio State and the University of Michigan have one of the fiercest and most storied rivalries in college football and just about everything else.
To the delight of his family, Lawrence pushed the “no” button not once but twice.
“He always makes a face when we mention Michigan,” Lawrence’s wife, Meghan, told The Columbus Dispatch. “We’re pretty sure he’s in there.”
Lawrence, a startup consultant, was in eastern Europe for a business conference when a car he was riding in veered into a 50-foot (15-meter) ravine March 21. The car rolled over numerous times and hit a tree, killing two of the five occupants. Lawrence was wearing a seat belt, but broke all of his left ribs, had internal bleeding and the traumatic brain injury that rendered him comatose.
His wife, father and brother, who are both named David, flew to Georgia and decided he should recover back in the U.S. They raised tens of thousands of dollars to fly him to Vienna then to Columbus and Ohio State.
Therapists have been helping him stand on a treadmill and have been using electric stimulation to move messages from his brain to other parts of his body.
Meghan Lawrence said Dodd Hall’s Disorders of Consciousness program has made all the difference. After seven weeks, he’s now considered semi-conscious.
“We’re basically dealing with the healing brain,” Meghan Lawrence said. “He has a long way to go, and he’s already come such a long way.”