Human Interest

MIRACLE: Mom wakes up after being in a coma for five years


A family is opening up about what they’re calling a miracle: a mother of three has woken up after having been in a coma for five years.

Jennifer Flewellen was in a car accident in 2017; she was left in what doctors said was an irreversible coma. But, in 2022, she woke up, laughing at a joke told at her bedside.

“Nobody expected her to wake up,” Peggy Means, Flewellen’s mom, said in October. “We were told all along that she has anoxia and that the brain damage, she’ll never wake up, but you never say never.”

Flewellen’s lifelong friend, Sara Macon, told WNDU, “I’ll share something with you that I’ve never even shared with Peggy; in my office, which is just to the left of me here, I have cards for Peggy, for each of the boys, for her brother, that I bought to give them at what I expected to be her funeral.”

Now, a year and a half after waking up, Flewellen is ready for intense rehab and has gained a spot at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

READ: Woman chooses assisted death because Canada’s treatment wait time was ‘weeks to months’

Means recently told PEOPLE that on the day Flewellen woke up, she had been lying in bed, like always, when suddenly… she laughed. “When she woke up, it scared me at first because she was laughing and she had never done that,” she said. “Every dream came true. Today’s the day I said, ‘That door that was closed, that kept us apart, had just opened. We were back.'”

In the meantime, Flewellen needed time to slowly adjust to not being in the coma anymore. “She woke up, but she didn’t completely. She couldn’t speak, but she was nodding,” Means explained. “She would still sleep a lot right at first, but then as the months would go by, she would get stronger and be more awake.”

Flewellen has three children — Julian, 17, Daeton, 19, and Skylar, 21 — and it was difficult for her to realize how much time had passed. “I told her I was Juju and her eyes lit up like, ‘Wow, it’s my Juju bean,'” Julian told PEOPLE. “But when she actually found out our ages and things like that, it broke her heart. She started to cry.”

And though doctors have cautioned her family not to expect much, Flewellen is doing more than she ever was expected to do — and when told she looked ready to take on the world, she was able to respond: “I am.”

Research has found that some unresponsive people may still be aware of what’s happening around them; though they cannot respond physically to commands, brain scans revealed they were aware and able to respond to questions. Another groundbreaking case in France made medical history when doctors were able to restore brain function for a man who spent 15 years with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome.

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