- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS (AP) — A woman who went into a vegetative state more than six years ago awoke this week for three days and spoke with her family and a local television station before slipping back.

“I’m fine,” Christa Lilly told her mother on Sunday — her first words in eight months. She has awakened four times for briefer periods since suffering a heart attack and stroke in November 2000.

“I think it’s wonderful. It makes me so happy,” Mrs. Lilly, 49, told a CBS affiliate. She also got to see her youngest daughter, Chelcey, now 12, and three grandchildren.

Before her relapse on Wednesday, Mrs. Lilly told the station her biggest frustration was learning how to talk again.

After years of being fed from a tube, eating was no problem.

“I’ve been eating cake,” she said.

Her neurologist, Dr. Randall Bjork, said he couldn’t explain how or why she awoke.

“I’m just not able to explain this on the basis of what we know about persistent vegetative states,” he said.

A vegetative state is much like a coma except Mrs. Lilly’s eyes remain open. Dr. Bjork said that he’s never seen a similar quality of awakening.

Dr. Bjork said that unlike the much-publicized case of Terri Schiavo, Mrs. Lilly is minimally conscious. He said she could awake again.

After Mrs. Lilly relapsed, her mother and caregiver Minnie Smith said: “The good Lord let me know she’s all right; he brings her back to visit every so often and I’m thankful for that.”

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