Coma Hero Is Back after Ten Lost Years

Article excerpt

Byline: JACQUI GODDARD

FIREMAN Donald Herbert paid a terrible price for his courage in the line of duty nearly ten years ago.

Searching a blazing apartment building for survivors, he suffered head injuries when the roof collapsed on him and he was left without oxygen for six minutes before colleagues pulled him free.

For two and a half months he was in a coma, emerging brain-damaged, blind and virtually unable to speak.

Stripped of his memory and incapable of recognising his wife's voice or his children's touch, he wiled away his days in a wheelchair at a nursing home, seemingly unaware of his surroundings.

His family even instructed doctors not to resuscitate him should he suffer a heart attack or stroke, believing that death might be for the best.

And there he stayed for the best part of a decade - until last Saturday afternoon when the 44-year-old father of four suddenly burst into life and told nurses: 'I want to talk to my wife.' For 16 hours, he engaged in a marathon of animated conversations and tearful reunions with family and friends, hugging his four sons and asking relatives: 'How long have I been gone?' His uncle, Simon Manka, said: 'We told him "Almost ten years" and he said "Holy Cow". He thought it had been three months.' Mr Manka added: 'He was completely different. He was asking questions and he'd recognise a voice.

'When somebody came in the room, he'd say the name before anyone told him who it was. …