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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Exciting Medical Possibility!

After all the publicity about Terry Schiavo the label Persistent Vegetative State is ubiquitous. However, it is also very poorly understood. How does one define Persistent Vegetative State? According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
A persistent vegetative state (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as "brain-death") sometimes follows a coma. Individuals in such a state have lost their thinking abilities and awareness of their surroundings, but retain non-cognitive function and normal sleep patterns. Even though those in a persistent vegetative state lose their higher brain functions, other key functions such as breathing and circulation remain relatively intact. Spontaneous movements may occur, and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli. They may even occasionally grimace, cry, or laugh. Although individuals in a persistent vegetative state may appear somewhat normal, they do not speak and they are unable to respond to commands.


Of importance in this definition is that the patient is not dying. The patient is profoundly disabled.
Today’s Guardian covers a report in the medical journal NeuroRehabilitation. Three patients in a diagnosed PVS were given Zolpidem, a short-acting sleep medication with seemingly miraculous results.

A drug commonly used as a sleeping pill appears to have had a miraculous effect on brain-damaged patients who have been in a permanent vegetative state for years, arousing them to the point where some are able to speak to their families, scientists report today.

The dramatic improvement occurs within 20 minutes of taking the drug, Zolpidem, and wears off after around four hours - at which point the patients return to their permanent vegetative state, according to a paper published in the medical journal NeuroRehabilitation


Could this really be true? Obviously this needs lots more study and no conclusions can be drawn yet. However, I also think it should prod those who advocate withdrawing care from patients in a PVS to pause and reconsider their position.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Individuals in such a state have lost their thinking abilities and awareness of their surroundings, but retain non-cognitive function and normal sleep patterns. Even though those in a persistent vegetative state lose their higher brain functions, other key functions such as breathing and circulation remain relatively intact."

Hmmmm....sounds less like a medical condition and more like the state of democratic leadership in congress.

Catholic Mom said...

Oh, that is too funny! I can think of a few other groups this could be applied to as well. Almost any bureaucracy could be considered for this definition.