CBSN

Coma Patient Sings Way To Health

When Sarah Scantlin woke up earlier this year after two decades in a semi-comatose state, she was ready to resume her life. Her body was not.

In the second half of a two-part report, The Early Show national correspondent talked to Scantlin about her stuggle to regain mobility and about what went on inside her head while she lay in a virtual trance.

For 20 years, Scantlin, the victim of a hit-and-run accident, was cut off from the world, unable to communicate. But it's now clear that - at least some of the time - she could see, she could hear, and she could understand what was going on around her.

Shortly after she began to talk earlier this year, her father asked her what she knew about something that had happened years earlier, Sept. 11."

"Sarah, what's 9-11?" Jim Scantlin says he asked. "And she says, 'Bad…Fire…Airplanes… Building. Hurt people.' Now, that's pretty good."

Dr. Randolph Marshall, a neurologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, says there was something going on inside Sarah Scantlin's brain.

"Maybe intermittently," he explains. "But certainly, at some time, she must have been processing information."

And there are other things buried deep in Scantlin's brain that survived the accident, and the long, dark night that followed. When Smith asked her about '80s music, Scantlin, who fell into the coma state in 1984 when she was 18, suddenly knew all the answers.

Here is the exchange the CBS News correspondent had with Scantlin:

Smith: Hall and...
Sarah Scantlin: Oates!
Smith: Their big song was 'Your Kiss is on My…
Sarah Scantlin: Lips!'

She even remembered the lyrics from the song "Summer Lovin" from the John Travolta-Olivia Newton John film, "Grease." And sang them along with Smith.

The singing could be more than just an echo of Sarah Scantlin's former life; it could be a means to speed her recovery.

Asked if it is a good idea for Scantlin to keep singing, Dr. Marshall says, "I think it sounds like a good place to start and maybe continue. Maybe she'll be dancing, too."

Right now, there's no way of knowing how much more physical progress she will make.

In the movie "Awakenings," a new drug helps Robert DeNiro's character wake up from a 30-year coma without so much as a hangover.

It's all Hollywood.