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He Went Into a Coma, Then 19 Years Later Said 'Mom'

Arkansas' Terry Wallis dies at 57, nearly 2 decades after he regained consciousness
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2022 6:26 AM CDT
He Went Into a Coma, Then 19 Years Later Said 'Mom'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Korawig)

He was known as "The Man Who Slept for 19 Years." Now, nearly two decades after he woke up from a post-accident coma, Terry Wallis has died. An obituary details the stunning story of the 57-year-old from Big Flat, Ark., starting with a 1984 car crash just six weeks after his daughter, Amber, was born. Citing a 2003 AP report, USA Today notes that the vehicle Wallis was riding in with a friend drove off the road and into a creek, and they weren't discovered until the next day, under a bridge. Wallis' friend was dead, and Wallis was left a quadriplegic and comatose.

Per NBC News, doctors believed Wallis would never come out of his coma. But on June 12, 2003, 19 years after his accident, Wallis woke up, saying just one word: "Mom." "Then it was 'Pepsi' and then it was 'milk.' And now it's anything he wants to say," the social director at the Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center said at the time. Media coverage and his appearance in medical articles earned Wallis the nickname "The Man Who Slept for 19 Years." "His mother and all of his family cared for him relentlessly during his coma and afterwards," his obituary reads. "His family would bring him home on alternate weekends for years."

The obit notes that "doctors believe that this stimulation contributed to his awakening period." Wallis spent the next 19 years enjoying time with his loved ones. He "liked listening to live music, especially when his brother Perry was playing," his obit reads. "Terry was a great teaser and loved to tease his sister. His wonderful sense of humor will be greatly missed by his family." Wallis, who died Tuesday, is survived by his daughter, his father, three siblings, and three grandchildren. His mom, who'd been so devoted to him over the years, died in 2018. (More coma stories.)

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