Kansas Woman Speaks Two Years After Brain Trauma

A woman who couldn't talk or feed herself after suffering head trauma in a traffic accident has spoken her first words in more than two years.

Tracy Gaskill, 30, began speaking and swallowing about three weeks ago, family members and medical personnel said. She had suffered internal injuries and head trauma when her pickup truck rolled over on a highway in September 2002.

"I have never seen this happen in my career," Dr. David Schmeidler said. "I've read about it happening, the severely brain damaged recovering suddenly, but never seen it until now."

Gaskill's family believes the care she has received and their daily visits and prayers helped her recovery.

"In the last year and a half, she's indicated that she knows us; she has been watching TV and smiling," said her grandfather, Don Gaskill. "More recently, she started nodding her head when we asked her questions. Then a few months ago, she'd laugh out loud."

There have been a few other widely publicized examples of brain-damaged patients showing sudden improvement after a number of years, at least temporarily.

Another Kansas woman, Sarah Scantlin, made headlines earlier this year when she uttered her first words since being left bedridden and unable to communicate after a drunken driver struck her in 1984. The Hutchinson woman continues to recover from her brain injury.

Last month, a brain-injured firefighter in upstate New York started speaking after almost a decade of near-total silence. Donald Herbert's wife has said that he has had moments of clarity but nothing as dramatic as the first day when he spoke to family and friends for hours.