Brain-Damaged Woman Talks After 20 Years
Sat Feb 12,11:24 PM ET
U.S. National - AP
By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press Writer
HUTCHINSON, Kan. - For 20 years, Sarah Scantlin has been mostly oblivious to the world around her — the victim of a drunken driver who struck her down as she walked to her car. Today, after a remarkable recovery, she can talk again.
Sarah Scantlin was an 18-year-old college freshman on Sept. 22, 1984, when she was hit by a drunk driver as she walked to her car after celebrating with friends at a teen club. That week, she had been hired at an upscale clothing store and won a spot on the drill team at Hutchinson Community College.
After two decades of silence, she began talking last month. A week ago, her parents got a call from Jennifer Trammell, a licensed nurse at the Golden Plains Health Care Center. She asked Betsy Scantlin if she was sitting down, told her someone wanted to talk to her and switched the phone to speaker mode:
"Sarah, is that you?" her mother asked.
"Yes," came the throaty reply.
"How are you doing?"
"Do you need anything," her mother asked her later.
"Did she just say more makeup?" the mother asked the nurse.
The driver who struck Scantlin served six months in jail for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
Scantlin started talking in mid-January but asked staff members not to tell her parents until Valentine's Day to surprise them, Trammell said. But last week she could not wait any longer to talk to them.
Scantlin's doctor, Bradley Scheel, said physicians are not sure why she suddenly began talking but believe critical pathways in the brain may have regenerated.
On Saturday, her brother asked whether she knew what a CD was. Sarah said she did, and she knew it had music on it.
But when he asked her how old she was, Sarah guessed she was 22. When her brother gently told her she was 38 years old now, she just stared silently back at him. The nurses say she thinks it is still the 1980s.
Is she happy she can talk? "Yeah," she replied.
What does she tell her parents when they leave? "I love you," she said.
5 years ago