Terry Wallis is an American man who, after spending 19 years in a coma, regained consciousness on June 11, 2003. He currently lives in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Terry Wallis, born April 7, 1964, in Arkansas, is the son of Angilee and Jerry Wallis. Before his accident, he had recently become a father, with his wife Sandi giving birth to their daughter Amber six weeks prior.
On July 13, 1984, Wallis was involved in a severe car accident that resulted in him falling into a coma. The accident occurred when his pickup truck skidded off a bridge near Stone County, Arkansas, and tragically resulted in the death of one of his friends.
Wallis' pickup truck was discovered upside down in a dry riverbed, having collided with a railing fence and fallen 7.6 meters as a result of the accident.
After the accident, Wallis was found to be unresponsive and immobilized but still breathing. The injuries he sustained left him quadriplegic and he was placed in a nursing home in Mountain View. Within a year of the accident, his coma stabilized into a minimally conscious state, but medical professionals believed his condition was permanent.
Terry Wallis remained in a coma until June 13, 2003, when he suddenly woke up in his hospital bed and spoke his first words. His daughter was now 19 years old, his wife had raised her alone for nearly two decades, and both his mother and father were still alive. It is worth noting that the date of his awakening was on Friday the 13th.
When a nurse questioned him about the woman approaching, he replied "mama." He then said "Pepsi," followed by "milk." Within the second day, Terry was speaking normally as if there was no issue. The only noticeable problem was that Terry's perception of time was stuck in 1984.
Terry inquired about his grandparents who had passed away. He continued to refer to Ronald Reagan as the current president. He still remembered the phone number of his former home, which others had long forgotten. He was surprised to learn that the USSR was no longer a threat and that the Berlin Wall had been dismantled.
During a three-day "awakening period," Terry's muscle strength remained weak, but he saw limited improvement in his ability to control some parts of his body and to communicate with others.
Despite this, Terry's injuries from the original accident have left him with permanent disabilities, including the speech disorder dysarthria.
Wallis was featured in the 2005 BodyShock special "The Man Who Slept for 19 Years" aired on Channel 4 in the UK. The program portrays his mother and daughter's efforts to get him to speak with neurologists in an attempt to understand how he regained speech after such a prolonged period.
The special included appearances from several prominent medical professionals, including Dr. Caroline McCagg, the medical director of the JFK Center for Head Injury in New Jersey, Dr. Joe Giacino, a neuropsychologist who stated that Wallis's brain had retained a significant amount of information from before 1984, but very little after 1984 as he had lost the ability to form new memories and was essentially amnestic, and Dr. Martin Gizzi, a neurologist who explained that due to damage to the frontal lobes, Wallis was unable to convert experiences into memories.
Brain scans of Wallis were conducted using advanced technology by Nicholas Schiff of Weill Cornell Medical College. The imaging studies suggested that Wallis's brain had rewired itself by reconnecting intact neurons and forming new connections to bypass damaged regions.
Medical professionals continue to disagree on the exact definition of a coma. Those who remain unconscious for an extended period are often referred to as being in a permanent vegetative state, and it is highly unusual for them to regain consciousness.
The timing of Terry's recovery has sparked curiosity. His father, Jerry, said: "It's quite unusual. He had the accident on a Friday the 13th and 19 years later, he began speaking on another Friday the 13th."