Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


This AP story left me with a lump in my throat. It also left me wondering what effect, if any, it will have on the debate about taking brain damaged people off life support.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - For 20 years, Sarah Scantlin has been mostly oblivious to the world around her — the victim of a drunken driver who struck her down as she walked to her car. Today, after a remarkable recovery, she can talk again. Scantlin's father knows she will never fully recover, but her newfound ability to speak and her returning memories have given him his daughter back. For years, she could only blink her eyes — one blink for "no," two blinks for "yes" — to respond to questions that no one knew for sure she understood. *** Sarah Scantlin was an 18-year-old college freshman on Sept. 22, 1984, when she was hit by a drunk driver as she walked to her car after celebrating with friends at a teen club. That week, she had been hired at an upscale clothing store and won a spot on the drill team at Hutchinson Community College. After two decades of silence, she began talking last month. Doctors are not sure why. On Saturday, Scantlin's parents hosted an open house at her nursing home to introduce her to friends, family members and reporters. *** Scantlin still suffers constantly from the effects of the accident. She habitually crosses her arms across her chest, her fists clenched under her chin. Her legs constantly spasm and thrash. Her right foot is so twisted it is almost reversed. Her neck muscles are so constricted she cannot swallow to eat. The driver who struck Scantlin served six months in jail for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. *** Family members say Scantlin's understanding of the outside world comes mostly from news and soap operas that played on the television in her room. On Saturday, her brother asked whether she knew what a CD was. Sarah said she did, and she knew it had music on it. But when he asked her how old she was, Sarah guessed she was 22. When her brother gently told her she was 38 years old now, she just stared silently back at him. The nurses say she thinks it is still the 1980s.