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By Hilary White

  DZIALDOWO, Poland, June 4, 2007 ( – A Polish railway worker has astonished his doctors by waking spontaneously after 19 years and talking about memories of his time in a “coma”, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. Jan Grzewski was injured at work and while he was hospitalized, his doctors found cancer in his brain and predicted he would not recover.
  After his doctors concluded nothing more could be done for him, Mr. Grzewski’s wife, Gertruda, cared for him at home, moving his body and feeding him by hand. “I would fly into a rage every time someone would say that people like him should be euthanized, so they don’t suffer,” she told Gazeta. “I believed Janek (an affectionate nickname) would recover, AP reported.”

  Cases such as Mr. Grzewski’s are being used around the western world as arguments for euthanasia by dehydration or withholding of nutrition for those in what is often called a “permanent vegetative state”.  Poland, however, a strongly Catholic country, continues to hold out against international pressure to soften restrictions on euthanasia. In March this year, a poll by Polska Grupa Badawcza found that a majority of Poles support strengthening the law protecting human life. 52 per cent of Polish voters would support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and euthanasia in all cases.

  Mr. Grzewski told Gazeta Dzialdowska, the local daily paper in the northern city of Dzialdowo where he is readjusting to life as a 65 year-old, that at the time of his accident in 1989, the shops were full of nothing but “vinegar and mustard.”

  Under communism, he said, “meat was rationed and there were huge petrol queues everywhere. Now I see people on the streets with cellphones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.” He told the media that people complain now as much as they did under communism: “These people walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning.” But he told his wife that the world is “prettier” now than it was under then and he’s happy to be “back”. “I could not talk or do anything, now it’s much better,” he said.

  Gertruda noticed last year that he was trying to speak and Grzewski was returned to the hospital for further treatment. Wojciech Pstragowski, a rehabilitation specialist, said, “I am sure that without the dedication of his wife, the patient would not have reached us in the (good) shape that he did.”

  After regaining his ability to speak, Mr. Grzewski told his relatives that he has memories of family gatherings while he was supposedly ‘comatose,’ at which they spoke to him, trying to elicit a response. Mrs. Grzewska, her husband’s doctor said, did the work of an entire intensive care team, turning him every hour to prevent bed sore infections.

“I cried a lot, and prayed a lot,” she said. “Those who came to see us kept asking, ‘When is he going to die?’ But he’s not dead.”

  Grzewski’s prognosis is positive and his doctors expect him to be able to walk soon. “At the start, his speech was very unclear, now it is improving daily,” Pstragowski said.