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Device offers hope for coma patients

mumbai Updated: Aug 08, 2011 02:43 IST
Sonal Shukla
Sonal Shukla
Hindustan Times
Rupali Thakur

Rupali Thakur, 26, has been in a coma for the past two years, after a train mishap. But, a medical procedure she underwent last month at Sion hospital has renewed hope of her recovery.

On July 20, 2009, Thakur was on her way to her office when she fell off a local train. A policeman saw her on the tracks, unconscious, and took her to hospital.

She had injured her head seriously and slipped into a coma. Ever since, she has been in a "persistent vegetative" state, which means she is unaware of her surroundings, unresponsive and is unable to communicate.

In July, doctors at Sion hospital performed a surgery to fix a neuro-stimulator (akin to a pacemaker), which sends electric pulses through the spine, to stimulate the brain.

Thakur's family is drawing hope from the fact that of the 12 coma patients who have undergone the Dorsal Column Stimulation (DCS) procedure in the last decade, six have shown signs of recovery.

"The six who responded to the treatment, were able to advance to a wheelchair. They started sitting up and it was easier to perform physiotherapy on them," said Dr Alok Sharma, head of neurosurgery, Sion hospital.

"Their responsiveness to sounds improved and they also started showing emotional reactions, such as tears and smiles," he added.

Dr Sharma said that one of his patients, Daljit Singh, 23, from Koliwada, was operated upon seven years ago and showed all these developments within two years of surgery.

Thakur's parents, who live in Jogeshwari, approached Sion Hospital last year, after reading an article on the DCS procedure for coma patients. However, identifying the treatment was only the first step.

"My father is a newspaper vendor. It took us almost a year to generate the funds," said Thakur's younger sister, Deepali, 23. The procedure costs Rs4.5 lakh and the family received financial assistance through the government's Jeevan Dayani Scheme and from a few trusts.

Thakur has four sisters and a brother, and is the eldest among the siblings. She had gotten married just a year before the accident.

"Nobody knows how the accident happened. Since that day, I have not heard my daughter's voice," said Thakur's mother, Reshma.