WARSAW, Poland – A Polish railway worker who woke up after 19 years in a coma is learning to live again and to understand a politically altered Poland, his wife said Sunday.
"For 19 years he did not move or say anything," Gertruda Grzebska told The Associated Press by phone. "He tried to say things but it couldn't be understood. Sometimes we pretended we understood."
Grzebska, 63, said that for years she fed her husband, Jan, carefully with a spoon and moved his body to prevent bed sores.
"Now he spends his days sitting in a wheelchair and last weekend we took him out for a walk in his wheelchair," she said.
"He was so amazed to see the colorful streets, the goods," she said. "He says the world is prettier now" than it was 19 years ago, when Poland was still under communist rule.
"I wake up at 7 a.m. and I watch TV," he said, with a slight smile on his face.
Despite doctors' advice that he would not live, his wife never gave up hope and took care of him at home.
"He was a living corpse," she said on TVN24.
"Now he can sit in his wheelchair and we have breakfast and coffee together," she said.
"I would fly into a rage every time someone would say that people like him should be euthanized, so they don't suffer," she told local daily Gazeta Dzialdowska. "I believed Janek would recover," she said, using an affectionate version of his name.
"This is my great reward for all the care, faith and love," she told the AP, weeping.
"He remembers everything that was going on around him," she said. "He talks about it and remembers the wedding of our children. He had fever around the time of the weddings, so he knew something big was taking place."
In 1988, when Poland was still run by a communist government, Grzebski sustained head injuries as he was attaching two train carriages together. He fell into a coma. Doctors also found cancer in his brain and said he would not live. Grzebski's wife took him home.
Last October he fell sick with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized again, Grzebska said.
Doctors' efforts led to the first signs of recovery.
"He began to move and his speech was becoming clearer, although I was the only one to understand him," she said.
Intensive rehabilitation brought more effects.
"At the start, his speech was very unclear, now it is improving daily," Wojciech Pstragowski, a rehabilitation specialist, said on TVN24.
"He can now move his feet, feeling has returned to his limbs and he can hold light objects."
"If he continues to make such progress, he will soon be able to walk," Pstragowski said.
He said Grzebski was shocked to see the streets and shops in the town. "He remembered shelves filled with mustard and vinegar only" under communism, Pstragowski said.
Poland shed communism in 1989 and has developed democracy and a market economy.
"I am sure that without the dedication of his wife, the patient would not have reached us in the (good) shape that he did," Pstragowski said.