NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
DALLAS — Can patients in a coma hear and understand?
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine says they can.
Researchers studied the brain activity of people in a vegetative state. When told to imagine certain scenarios, several had the same brain activity as a normal person.
Researchers say it's proof that no one can be certain their loved one "isn't in there somewhere."
The wife of former Dallas Cowboys player Ron Springs is counting on that.
"He moves his head more," says Adriane Springs. "Actually, one day I was reading to him and he just kept really moving his head back and forth. They did an EEG on him and they determined that there is more positive brain activity now than there when he first was admitted."
Adriane Springs hasn't spoken publicly since filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors in charge of the surgery that left her husband in a coma.
Ron Springs was loving life again after a successful kidney transplant in 2007 from teammate Everson Walls.
At the time, he thought his legacy would be as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, with a foundation promoting awareness of kidney disease and diabetes.
But, a few months later, a minor surgery to remove a harmless cyst on his arm took a tragic turn. Springs was deprived of oxygen during anesthesia, leaving him in a vegetative state at Medical City Dallas Hospital.
He remains in a room there to this day.
"All of his organs are fine, including his kidney," says Adriane, noting the cruel irony. "Actually, he sits in a chair, every day. That's great. We get him out of bed, sit him in chair every day for at least about five hours. Still, there's the opening of the eyes, there are yawns. Actually, about a month and half ago, he had his very first sneeze."
Springs is revealing elements about her husband's current state here at the hospital, even as the malpractice lawsuit languishes in depositions and delays.
Two doctors in the case are being sued. There is also a federal challenge to the law that caps medical malpractice damages at $250,000.
But as medical bills mount from Ron Springs perpetual hospital stay, hope never wanes for Adriane Springs, who visits her husband every day.
"I want my husband to recover. I want him to be healed and I have faith that he will be because I know the person I serve, nothing's impossible," says Adriane. "We're never going to give up. We hear about miracles every day."