Man wakes from coma after getting 'Lazarus pill'

11 September 2012 - 02:14 By SIYA BOYA
File Photo
File Photo

After seven years in a coma, an Eastern Cape man has opened his eyes.

Ayanda Nqinana, who fell into a coma after a car accident in 2005, woke up in the Newhaven Chronic Sick Home, in East London, on August 29, after being given a sleeping pill, Stilnox.

Last month, Nqinana was able to see and speak to his son for the first time. Ayavuya was only two years old at the time of the car accident .

According to Nqinana's wife, Nomfundo, her son could not contain his joy when he heard his father saying his name.

"He was so excited that he kept running to me saying: 'Mom! Daddy knows my name.'

"I will never forget the day Ayanda woke up; it was the happiest day of my life," said Nomfundo.

"I was shocked that, after all these years of not responding, he still knows who we are and knows about the major events of his life.

"The very first request he made was to see his son, and that moved me," she said.

She called his awakening a "miracle from above".

She said a family friend had told her about a newspaper article about a man who had woken after being in a coma for years after being given Stilnox.

"The first thing I did was to Google it.

"I phoned Nqinana's doctor and told him about it but he did not believe me.

"I begged him for a prescription so that we could at least try it and see if it would work for my husband and he agreed," she said.

"After buying a pack of 30 tablets, I immediately took it to the clinic where he is being cared for. A decision was made that they would give it to him for five days and see if it worked."

At first there was no progress in her husband's condition but, five days later, she got a call saying he had woken up.

"I could not believe my ears. It was around 3pm that they called and I could not wait until I could see him.

But Nqinana's doctor, Siyabulela Bungana, was sceptical about Stilnox's ability to awaken patients from a coma.

"He has not spoken to me. I have not seen any evidence of improvement," said Bungana.

Dr Anjum Shahzad, a Johannesburg neurosurgeon, said there was no scientific evidence to support a link between Stilnox and the recovery of comatose patients.

"People and some general practitioners claim that the pill works and give it to patients with brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's."

He said that until a double blind study had shown that the pill can restore comatose patients to consciousness he could not accept that Stilnox was a "Lazarus pill".

"I personally would not recommend its use for purposes it was not made for."

A team from The Times' sister newspaper, the Daily Dispatch, visited Nqinana yesterday and he responded well.

Though he did not speak, when asked how he was doing, and if he could be photographed, he responded each time with a thumbs-up gesture.

Nqinana's eyes were open and he seemed aware of what was going on around him.

Johannesburg neurosurgeon Jaap Earle said Stilnox was a well-known sleeping pill.

"I prescribe it to many patients myself but I've never heard of it waking comatose patients," he said. - Additional reporting by Princess Nkabane and Vuvu Vena.