Woman comes out of coma after four years at Messina hospital

For four years this woman had been lying in bed in a hospital in Bonino Pulejo, in Messina, for patients in a vegetative state. The woman had been in a deep coma, never moving or uttering a single word or giving any indication that she was still alive.

Rosalba Giusti, il-mara li ħarġet minn koma wara erba' snin
Rosalba Giusti, the woman who came out of a coma after four years.

Suddenly, out of the blue, the woman ‘came back to life’ and started speaking. She was heard to call out the name of her nurse, who was quite shocked when she hear her name being uttered in a ward full of ‘silent’ patients. The nurse could not believe that the voice was coming from one of the patients in the ward. The voice was that of Rosalba Giusti, a 68-year-old woman from Palermo known as Giustina. The woman, a hairdresser and a mother of six children, had ended up in a coma following an internal brain haemorrhage.

The first sign of the woman’s revival occurred in December last year. Today Rosalba even recalls the lyrics of songs by singers like Massimo Ranieri, Claudio Baglioni and Julio Iglesias.
According to medical experts such cases occur about once every five years. This case re-opens the debate about life and death. Patrizia Pollicino, a neurologist for the past 25 years, has been quoted as saying that never in her career has she witnessed a case of a patient regaining his or her senses after ending up in a vegetative state. Pollicino said the woman not only opened her eyes but also replied correctly to questions put to her. Although paralysed, unable to move and fed artificially, Giustina is able to communicate, argue and recall past events. She has even started to sing. It appears that the woman. although totally immobilised and with her eyes closed, was aware of what was happening in the ward, but was unable to react. This emerges from the fact that when she came out of the coma, she called out the name of the nurse who had been looking after her for the past four years. Doctors refer to this syndrome as Locked In, when the patient is aware of what is happening but unable to exhibit external signs.

The woman was a prisoner within her body – mute, immobile and apparently dead. In reality, however, she was alive and able to register everything going on around her.

All this is enough to give hope to many, although in the knowledge that this is a very rare case. “Extremely rare, but not miraculous,” according to Placido Bramanti, scientific director at Bonino Pulejo neurological institute.

Meanwhile her six children still cannot believe they have their mother back with them again. The woman recalled that she had five children, but had forgotten about 24-year-old Emanuele, the youngest. When he was presented to her, the mother smiled at him and happily greeted him.