'Now my son has his father back'
FOR the first time in his life, 9-year-old Ayavuya Nqinana has heard his father, Ayanda Nqinana, say his name
Ayavuya was two years old when Nqinana was in a car accident in 2005 which caused him at first to slip into a coma.
According to the little boy’s mother, Nomfundo Nqinana, 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. 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.
Nomfundo claimed her husband woke from his comatose state after a sleeping tablet, Stilnox, was administered.
Nqinana’s doctor, Siyabulela Bungana said he had seen no improvement in his patient's condition.
“Yes, the pill is sleeping pill. He has not spoken to me. I have not seen any evidence of improvement. This has also not been scientifically proven. I saw him this morning, and his condition seemed the same to me, he did not speak. Nurses say that he has been speaking, so maybe he is shy,” he said.
Nqinana has been in a comatose state at the Newhaven Chronic Sick Home in East London for the past few years. But his wife says their family received a “miracle from above”.
“I always believed he would wake up, and when he did I knew God had answered our prayers,” she said.
Speaking from her Bhisho office yesterday, she said a family friend had told her about a newspaper article in which a man had woken up after being in a coma for years. The man had allegedly been administered a sleeping tablet called 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 out 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 till I could see him.
“Now that he is awake I am happier than ever. Finally our prayers have been answered. Now my son has his father back,” she added.
Dr Anjum Shahzad, a neurosurgeon with the Arwyp Medical centre in Johannesburg said though a handful of people had used the pill and claimed that it helped them out of their comas there was no scientific evidence to support this.
“People and some general practitioners claim that the pill works, and actually give it to patients with brain disorders and Alzheimer’’s but not until there is medical documentation that says a double blind study trial was done, that the pill was given to comatose patients, and worked under evaluation, will it be safe to say the pill works,” he said.
According to Shahzad the “Lazarus pill” is medically a sleeping pill and should only be used as such. “I personally would not recommend its use for purposes it was not made for,” he said, adding that no neurosurgeon of sound mind would use the pill for comatose patients.
Johannesburg neurosurgeon Dr Jaap Earle said Stilnox was a well known sleeping pill used by many people.
“I’ve never heard of it doing that [waking people from a coma]. I prescribe it to many patients myself, but I’ve never heard of it waking comatose patients,” he said.
Other neurosurgeons were sceptical of the pill being used in this manner and said they did not prescribe it to wake people up from a comatose state.
They said they did not know why it woke some people up. However they did not condone its use in this fashion.
There is also some speculation that the pill is not FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approved.
The pill, also known as Zolpidem is generally prescribed to treat insomnia as well as some brain disorders.
Among its many side effects is anterograde amnesia (a loss of the ability to create new memories after the event that caused the amnesia); hallucinations of varying intensity, delusions, altered thought patterns, headaches and short-term memory loss.