Terry Wallis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Terry Wallis
Born (1964-04-07) April 7, 1964 (age 55)
Spouse(s)Sandi Wallis (1980s–present)

Terry Wallis (born April 7, 1964) is an American man living in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas who on June 11, 2003, regained awareness after spending 19 years in a minimally conscious state.


Terry Wallis was born on April 7, 1964, in Arkansas to Angilee and Jerry Wallis. Six weeks before his accident, Wallis became a father when his wife Sandi (b. 1968) gave birth to his daughter Amber.[1]


Wallis became comatose when he suffered a major automobile accident where his pickup truck skidded off a small bridge near Stone County, Arkansas, on July 13, 1984, which resulted in one of his friends being killed. The pickup truck was found upside down in a dry riverbed after Wallis smashed into a railing fence and fell 25 feet.[1] He was found to be unresponsive and was immobilized but breathing. The accident left him a quadriplegic in a Mountain View nursing home. Within a year of the accident, the coma stabilized into a minimally conscious state but doctors believed his condition was permanent.[2][3][4][5]

In 2003 he awakened from his minimally conscious state and began to talk; when a nurse asked him who the lady walking toward him was, he replied "mama". He believed that he was still 20 and that it was still 1984.[2] His muscles remained weak, as his family could not afford physiotherapy, but he gradually recovered over a three-day "awakening period" in which he regained the ability to control some parts of his body and to speak to others. However, he remains disabled from injuries suffered during the original accident, including the motor disorder dysarthria.

Wallis was the subject of the BodyShock special for 2005 "The Man Who Slept For 19 Years" made for Channel 4 in the UK.[6] It shows his mother and daughter encouraging him to talk to neurologists to try to find out how Wallis had regained speech after such a long time. The program featured several well-known doctors, including Dr. Caroline McCagg, the medical director of the JFK Center for head injury in New Jersey, Dr. Joe Giacino, a neuropsychologist who said Wallis' brain retained lots of information from before 1984 but hardly any after 1984 because Wallis lost the ability to store new memories and was essentially amnestic, and Dr. Martin Gizzi, a neurologist who showed that, owing to damage to the frontal lobes, he could not process experiences into memories. Also featured in the program was the neuropsychologist professor Roger Llewellyn Wood.

Using new technology, brain scans were done on Wallis by Nicholas Schiff of Weill Cornell Medical College.[7] The hypothesis built from the imaging studies is that Wallis' brain reconnected neurons which remained intact and formed new connections to circumvent damaged areas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Terry Wallis, 19 Year Coma". Extraordinary People. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "US man wakes from 19-year coma". BBC News. Retrieved July 9, 2003.
  3. ^ "Man speaks after 19-year silence". CNN. Retrieved July 8, 2003.
  4. ^ "Mute 19 Years, He Helps Reveal Brain's Mysteries". The New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
  5. ^ "Man's brain rewired itself, doctors contend". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
  6. ^ Body and Mind
  7. ^ 'Rewired brain' revives patient after 19 years from New Scientist Accessed July 2006

External links[edit]