Woman Who Woke Up After 6 Years Relapses

By: Lauri Martin and David Nancarrow
By: Lauri Martin and David Nancarrow
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Doctors had called it a miracle. A Southern Colorado woman was in a vegetative state for more than six years, talked for the first time, speaking exclusively to 11 News.

Christa Lilly has since relapsed.

Minnie Smith, her mother and chief care-giver, says there is some small consolation when she has to say goodbye to her daughter again.

"The good Lord let me know she's alright, he brings her back to visit every so often and I'm thankful for that," Minnie said.

Lilly had a heart attack then a stroke. That's the last thing she remembers. It was November of 2000, when Lilly slipped into a vegetative state, which is essentially like a coma, but with the eyes open. Lilly was unconscious and unaware of her surroundings. During the short time she was awake, Lilly told 11 News "I think it's wonderful. It makes me so happy."

The last time Lilly was aware of the world around her, Bill Clinton was in office and the September 11th attacks hadn't even happened. Lilly was also surprised to find out her youngest daughter is now 12. "It's kinda exciting," Chelcy says. She’s Christa’s daughter. And Lilly is also also a grandmother of three. "Seeing her talking," Latiana says, is the greatest gift of all. Latiana is 6-years-old and the oldest of the grandchildren.

"Every morning," said Smith, "I always check on her when I wake up, before I go to the bathroom. I always say, ‘Hi baby, how are you doing?’ This past weekend, Lilly said ‘I'm fine’ and that's when I knew she was awake," Smith says. A two-word answer that changed everything.

Lilly told us her biggest frustration is learning how to talk again. "I've been eating cake." Eating is no problem for this woman, who had been kept alive by a feeding tube.

“This is a miracle,” Lilly's neurologist, Dr. Randall Bjork, tells us. He checked to see her how her brain is functioning. He says he's as surprised as everyone else. "This is all mystical and I can't explain it."

In her current condition Dr. Bjork says Christa is minimally conscious, a slightly better state than other notable cases like Terry Schiavo. Christa could wake again, possibly to a medical community that has a better understanding, or more experience with her condition.

"I would predict this would publicize the minimally conscious and perhaps more reporting of the cyclical awakenings," Bjork said.

In the meantime, Minnie will continue caring for Christa: doing what a mother does best.

"I never gave up on my daughter and I never will," she said.

And she hopes and prays this time next year, Christa will be back for good.

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