Man left in coma after choking on piece of meat wakes up after eight years

A man who was left in a coma-like state after choking on a piece of meat has woken up after eight years.

The man, named only as Richard, was unable to walk or talk following the bizarre incident.

According to the medical journal Cortex, Richard immediately remembered his father and asked for food when he woke up.

Doctors were able to help him briefly cover from his catastrophic brain injury after they gave him a sleeping pill.

Richard was just 20 when he suffered severe brain damage while choking, leaving him with akinetic mutism.

This is a rare mental state where people cannot speak, eat or move, but can still open their eyes.

Richard, now 37, had lived with the brain injury for 17 years when his family agreed to try the sleeping pill treatment.

Doctors have found sleeping pills can help some patients with brain injuries temporarily regain speech and movement.

According to Cortex, Richard regained full consciousness, recognised his family and asked to speak with his dad following a dose of Zolpidem, otherwise known as Ambien.

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The family had agreed to the treatment after doctors admitted there was little else they could do.

Student doctor Willemijn van Erp, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, was involved in Richard's treatment at a specialised nursing home.

She told Cortex: "It was clear that Richard saw and heard us, but because of his brain injury, he was barely able to respond to us."

But within just 20 minutes of the sleeping pill being administered, Richard was asking the nurse for help operating his wheelchair, asking for his dad, and saying he was craving fast food.

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"Because Richard's situation seemed hopeless, the family and I decided to administer this medication to Richard," Van Erp said.

"Against all expectations, Zolpidem had remarkable effects.

"After taking the sleeping pill, Richard started talking, wanted to call his father, and started recognising his brothers again.

"With some help, he could even get up from his wheelchair and walk short distances."

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Experiments have found the sedative part of sleeping pills can help to mute unnecessary brain activity.

Doctors found part of Richard's brain had completely shut down because they were being overloaded with sensory activity.

The sleeping pill was able to halt that activity for around two hours, allowing Richard to speak to people and walk again.

Dr Hisse Arnts at Amsterdam UMC said doctors replicated the treatment for a number of days before the drug stopped having an effect.

Akinetic mutism is a condition different to comas or paralysis, as some patients are able to make sounds or open their eyes.

Researchers are continuing to look into permanent treatment for patients with brain injuries.

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