TICKER: Medical miracle? Father ‘wakes up’ from seven-year coma after he is given a sleeping pill

A South African man who had been in a coma for seven years was ‘woken up’ after being given a sleeping pill.

Ayanda Nqinana, from Johannseburg, was left with severe brain injuries after his car crashed along an Eastern Cape road in 2005.

His doctors said the father-of-one would most likely never recover.

But his wife Nomfundo recently read a newspaper article about other long-term coma patients who had woken up after being fed sleeping pill Stilnox.

She insisted her husband be given the tablets and, just five days later, Mr Nqinana was awake and able to talk.

He even recognised relatives, including his son Ayavuya, and could recall conversations from before his crash.

Mrs Nqinana told TimesLive.co.za: ‘Ayavuya was so excited that he kept running to me saying: “Mum! Daddy knows my name.”

‘I will never forget the day Ayanda woke up; it was the happiest day of my life.


Stilnox, also known as Ambien, is a prescription medicine used to treat insomnia by initiating sleep.

It contains Zolpidem, which studies have found increases blood flow in the brain, particularly in areas involved in language comprehension – allowing improved function.

Studies into the connection between stroke rehabilitation and Stilnox are ongoing.

John White at Moss Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia is leading a study into the connection.

So far he has found that fewer than 10 per cent of stroke victims respond to the drug.

‘We’re not able to yet advise families on how to use this drug clinically because the research is in the very early stages,’ he said last year.

‘The very first request he made was to see his son, and that moved me.’

Although Mr Nqinana is unable to hold a proper conversation, he can say the odd word and respond using sign language such as a thumbs-up gesture.

But his doctor, Siyabulela Bungana, remains unconvinced about Stilnox’s ability to rouse patients out of a coma.

He said: ‘He has not spoken to me. I have not seen any evidence of improvement.’

The case is not the first time that Stilnox has woken up somebody in a coma.

Last December, it is believed to have roused Sam Goddard, 23, after he suffered a series of strokes that left him in a coma.

Mr Goddard, from Brisbane, Australia, was playing football in February 2010 when his head began to pound so severely he screamed for an ambulance.

Doctors told his fiancée Sally Jane Nielson that he had suffered a staggering eight strokes, leaving him with permanent brain damage, and would never be able to walk, talk or recognise his loved ones, and would likely be blind.

But after 45 days in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital – where he also contracted pneumonia – Mr Goddard woke up and began making slow progress after he was given Stilnox.


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