Coming Soon on Five - Extraordinary People - The Real Sleeping Beauty

extraordinary people: the real sleeping beauty

Five’s acclaimed documentary strand continues with more absorbing programmes exploring remarkable tales of human experience. Coming soon is the story of American Sarah Scantlin, who fell into a coma in 1985 at the age of 18, after being run over by a drunk driver. Doctors declared that recovery was impossible, and for 20 years she slept, until in 2005 something incredible happened – Sarah spoke. Nobody who had been in a coma-like state for so long had ever started speaking again.

This film follows Sarah as she attempts to prove once more that she can achieve the impossible. Her goal is independence: to feed herself, stand and walk unassisted. It also captures Sarah’s loved ones as they come to terms with the guilt, sacrifice and loss that they suffered during the years that Sarah ‘disappeared’.

Also featured in the programme is English woman Shahna Thwaites, who fell into a coma after a car accident as she returned from a festival. Doctors told her parents that she would never recover and that they should consider withdrawing life support, but after 23 days she awoke – beginning a ten-year struggle for recovery.

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  • anon

    My son 20 was involved in a horrific car accident going to work at 7am jan 2006, I live by the ambulance station and heard sirens I dont know why but I got out of bed and jumped straight in my car to find out what was happening, the main road was blocked off so I took a detour only to find the opposite end of the road as blocked off by police, I got out of my car and asked if the car was a grey renault, he let me through. my sons car was smashed up and he was in the back of an ambulance. I was picked up by my family and we went to hospital. Like Shahna we were told that he will have severe brain damage if he survives. Whilst in intensive care on the first day a surgeon told me they may have to amputate his left foot. They did not do this and basically rebuilt it, but again was told he will have to have his foot fused as it would not heal and he would never run again, he played left back at football. It was 10 days before he came out of intesive care and went to a neuro ward where the staff were fantastic. He could not talk or feed himself and we were told to keep his weight off his bad ankle. The ward was full of really ill people obviously but as each and everyone of them left, they and there families were really concerned about my son, we stayed watching people arrive improve and leave, not us. After being transferred to another unit things started to move on slowly. 10 months in hospital we brought him home. He has improved brilliantly. He still has a way to go. He has been training and ran in 5k charity race in 25 mins at a local college sports stadium. The reason I am writing this is because as parents all we got told was its a matter of time, which made no sense, we wanted answers. If there is anybody out there in a similar position stick with it and watch the positives outway the negatives.

  • g smith

    My 16 year old daughter was a passenger in a vehicle where for reasons yet unknown ‘litigation pending’ the driver went onto the other side of the road and an oncoming lorry hit my daughter leaving her with a sever brain injury-including damage to the ponds area. This was November 16th 2006.

    She was in a coma for 4 months and she is now in a ‘minimal conscience state’-well that was the last diagnosis.

    Two of those months she was on a gereatric chest infection ward -as there was no neuro unit in this country that would take a 16-18 year old exept The childrens trust which is private-and received next to no therapy at all.

    She was moved to a hospital in London where the nursing staff were very good and she finally got showered and hair washed but still they didn’t hold much hope for her and although she started to get some therapy it wasn’t much.

    I continued to fight for her because dispite the negativity certain things lead me to believe there is still hope for her.

    In July this year she ‘started to emerge a little’. I won my my 8 month battle to get her to ‘The Childrens Trust’ which is an amazing place. She has a full day of therapies, she is eating small amounts, has started to laugh and can comunicate using her thumb and finger. She has a very long way to go and unfortunatley she is 18 next April and they cannot keep her past 18 and so I do not know what the future holds.

    I am 126k in debt to date but I am not going to give up on her. I get my down days and have been advised to watch ‘extrodinary people’ tonight as it may give me a boost of hope.

    The most common age for brain injury in this country is 14-24 and yet there is no NHS facilities for 16-18 year olds with tracheostomys-if there is we never found them and neither did the PCT and at 18 if you haven’t reached a certain degree of improvement all that seems to be available are nursing homes where these youngsters have to be with mainly elderly stroke victims.

    We need more resources in this country especially now 5 times more people are surviving due to modern medicine.

  • Ranger

    While serving in Afghanistan this time last year I was involved in an operation in Sangin to repel Taliban fighters from the area of the Platoon House. I was assaulting, with another Ranger, a compound held by the Taliban when a grenade went off in my face. A single piece of shrapnel went through my right eye, through my brain and embedded itself in my head resulting in my a serious traumatic brain injury. I was very quickly evacuated back to the main camp at Bastion.

    I was quickly flown back to the UK and arrived in Birmingham on October 1st. My family were told to expect the worse and if I survived I would likely be a vegetable. Realistically, the doctors are able to make an educated guess – but that is all it is. No one can tell until you wake up.

    The doctors had needed to remove a part of my frontal lobe and perform a craniotomy to prevent pressure building on my brain. Due to the path of the shrapnel cutting my carotid artery behind my eye I needed to have the carotid on the right side closed by coil embolism.

    After 4 weeks I was walking, and within 7 weeks I had been discharged to Headley Court – the Army rehabilitation centre. I spent 4 months there under the guidance of the wonderful team there who got me back to fitness and I have been returned to work.

    Now I am worried about my driving license, not being able to run, my handwriting being a little bit off, but realistically I am pretty lucky.

    I still have a tingling sense down the right hand side of my body which I find annoying and my balance is sometimes a bit off – but otherwise you would see me and only notice I have a false eye.

    Some of us are not so lucky.

  • Aydan

    Hi, I have just watched the programme & Im sorry to hear what happened to your daughter, I wish you all the best & I hope she recovers very soon.Just stay positive look what happened to the lady in the USA.

    All the best.


  • alison

    Does anybody know if this programme will be repeated or can be downloaded? A member of my family is in a similar situation and I missed it and we didn’t record it.

  • Anonymous

    I have had scoliosis since I was very young. I have recovered from cancer as I had over 100 xrays since young. I now have a giddy feeling almost all of the time. I sometimes feel very depressed having a very disabled body. BUT, I watch programmes such as Extraordinary People, I then thank my lucky stars that I can live a normal life, though I do have a 3 wheeled frame to steady myself with walking outside. Being a practicing Christian has helped my get through hard times. I pray every night for all those people who are not so lucky as I am, and am trust that there are many people who still believe in a living God. Why does He allow people to suffer in the way that they do? It is a misterious world and I am sure that whn we pass from this wolrd, there is a better place for all to be.

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