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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

After 19 Years Terry Wallace Recovers From Coma

Aired July 8, 2003 - 19:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well in 1984 how old were you? I was 17 the summer Olympics were boycotted by the Soviets -- now this was back when there were Soviets. Prince had a No. 1 single, "When Doves Cry" off "Purple Rain" and TV was ruled by Dallas and Dynasty. In that year, Terry Wallis was 20 years old, his daughter was 6 weeks old and a car crash left him in a coma. Now KETV's Michelle Rupp picks up the story 19 years later, as Terry wakes up in a world with cell phones, the Internet and his 19-year-old daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He literally woke up after a head trauma and the brain stem juniory.

MICHELLE RUPP, KETV CORRESPONDENT: Doctor Zini calls Terry's turnaround nothing short of a miracle. His memory is amazing. Remembering times when those around him didn't know if they were getting through.

DR. JAMES ZINI, DIR. STONE CITY NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER: Included him in all of their conversations, as if he were aware. Now, we know that he was aware.

RUPP: Terry and Angilee have a special mother/son relationship. Angilee has been with her son every step of the way. Her determination and steadfastness paid off.

ANGILEE WALLIS, TERRY'S MOTHER: There's really no words to describe it. We've waited for 19 years. We, we are all just so happy. Just wonderful.

RUPP: Terry has a long road ahead. Finances are running thin for him to continue therapy, but his family is hopeful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never give up. There's always hope.

ZINI: The big lesson that we can all learn from this is never give up on life. We never know what is in store.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That is certainly true. Joining us now from Mountainview, Arkansas, we have Angilee Wallace, Terry's mom, and Dr. James Zini. Appreciate both of you being with us under these happy circumstances. Angilee starting off with you. Ninteen years of silence and then his first words. What were they, and how did they make you feel?

WALLIS: Mom, that was his first word. Made me feel great, just great.

COOPER: How did it happen? I mean, were you sitting around? Tell me, paint me a picture of the scene.

WALLIS: I came to the Stone County Rehabilitation Center to visit Terry. One of the aides came out and said, Terry, who is that? and he said Mom.

COOPER: And they...

WALLIS: I thought they were making him.

COOPER: They'd asked him questions in the past, in the past 19 years, you all have talked to him and he just hasn't responded?

WALLIS: That's right.

COOPER: What's so remarkable about the story, Angilee, and as a mom, you deserve a ton of credit, because, I mean, you kept not only visiting, but you would actually take Terry out. You would bring him back home on family outings. He remained a part of your family?

WALLIS: He sure did. He is a part of the family.

COOPER: Dr. Zini...

WALLIS: We took him home every other week.

COOPER: Every other week, you took him home?

WALLIS: Yes.

COOPER: That's remarkable.

Dr. Zini, have you ever seen anything like this?

ZINI: Absolutely not. It's really amazing.

COOPER: How rare is it? I mean, was there a time you ever gave up hope? Did you ever think something like this could happen could happen?

ZINI: Well, after 18 years I don't think we ever gave up hope. He was actually a pretty healthy young man. And over this period of time, he's not been very ill. He's had a pneumonia or an infection or two over that time frame. But not really physically very sick. It was the trauma to his body that caused him to be this way. So, you know, we treated him as if he were healthy otherwise.

And the personnel here at the rehabilitation center have been just terrific. The real unsung heroes are those nurses aides and nurses who have treated him all this time and taken care of him and included him in all of their activities. And I think that and his family is who he's responded to so well.

COOPER: And Angilee, your message to other folks out there who may be in similar circumstances?

WALLIS: Just don't give up. There's always hope.

COOPER: All right, we'll end it on that. Angilee Wallis and Dr. Zini, appreciate you joining us. Our best to Terry. And I know there's a long road ahead but we appreciate you coming in and talking to us about the progress thus far, thank you.

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