Policeman in coma speaks again

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The Independent Online
Chattanooga - It wasn't a fluke after all. The brain-damaged police officer who suddenly spoke last week after a seven-and-a-half-year silence talked again on Wednesday, speaking for the first time since an operation that risked returning him to a coma-like state. Yesterday he was moved out of intensive care.

Gary Dockery spoke on three separate occasions on Wednesday, giving doctors and his family hope he might fully regain his ability to speak. He was resting yesterday in a regular hospital room, at Columbia Parkridge Medical Center. He will soon begin tests to determine his ability to speak and think.

Mr Dockery, 42, was shot in the head in September 1988 by a drunken man. Doctors feel confident he will be able to speak in some limited capacity, but have yet to determine at what level his brain will function, a hospital statement said.

Family members visited Mr Dockery on Wednesday night in the hope of getting him to talk more. Doctors said that he was improving, but warned family members against asking too many questions, because he is still quite ill.

At the urging of a nurse, Mr Dockery repeated his name twice in the morning on Wednesday. Later, on two separate occasions, he was able to reply when asked the time.

Mr Dockery "simply and quietly uttered a single word, `night', as clearly as you or I would say it," Dr James Folkening said. It was 10.30 am. A neurologist, Bruce Kaplan, later asked Mr Dockery the same question and he replied: "Three o'clock." It was 12.45 pm, a mirror image and inversion of the clock's big and little hands.

The words were Mr Dockery's first since undergoing life-saving surgery a week ago.