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Husband's fight brings wife back from coma (w/video)

By Bianca Montes
April 12, 2014 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.

Linda Dyer reflects on the medically induced coma she was in for more than a month. She is at  Warm Springs Specialty Hospital. Dyer's lung collapsed after an upper respiratory infection, causing doctors to place her on life support. After not waking from the coma, doctors advised Dyer's husband, Steve, to consider letting her go. A few days later, she woke up.

When his wife showed little activity after being in a coma for several weeks, Steve Dyer said he wasn't ready to let her go - she was still fighting.

He was still fighting.

That fight helped buy enough time so his wife could return to him before he had to make a decision he did not want to make.

It was March 3, and doctors had just sat him down to talk about her options. "We need to start thinking about her living in a vegetated state," they told him, "or letting her go with dignity."

He picked up the phone and made the call no husband or father would dream of - he called his children and wife's family, asking them to make the drive into Victoria to help with the decision.

"It was devastating," brother Tommy McElveen said. "It was a shock to be told there was no hope. Up until she got sick, she was doing great."

Linda Dyer, 58, of Clute, entered a hospital in Lake Jackson on Jan. 23. She was lethargic and fighting a cold. After developing a lung infection and needing to be placed on a ventilator, she was moved to Post Acute Medical Specialty Hospital of Victoria.

Dr. Engilberto Ramos, a hospitalist who worked with Dyer, said her condition deteriorated to the point that she was medically paralyzed just to breathe.

"We had to relax her entire body so she'd be able to ventilate," he said. "We had to take over the breathing for her completely."

Dyer was unresponsive, and her doctors thought she was suffering from brain damage because of a lack of oxygen, Ramos said. If so, she would live the rest of her life in a vegetated state.

Steve Dyer brought his wife into the hospital, telling doctors that they would fight regardless of the prognosis, but toward the end, he said he began to lose faith in himself.

"I sat in her room from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and I could tell she wasn't getting better," he said, gasping on the words as he recalled the thought of losing his wife. "I started spending a lot of time thinking about the worst."

The two met 33 years ago in Bay City. He worked at a theater, and she worked at an ice cream shop down the street.

A friend of his submitted his name to a newspaper dating column without his consent.

"One day, a young girl called me, and said 'Hi, my name is ... and I read about you in the paper.'"

She told him he was too old for her, but she had a co-worker at the ice cream shop he should meet. He and Linda Dyer went on their first date at McDonald's and married three months later.

Dyer said he couldn't imagine a life without his wife.

"I kept thinking something has to change," he said.

Dyer recalled a time when it took his wife two days to recover after receiving a local anesthetic, something he said would have taken a normal person 15-20 minutes to recover from.

"I told the doctors," he said, "But they didn't believe me - they thought I was exaggerating."

By March 5, more than a month after going into her coma, doctors took Linda Dyer off anesthesia. She woke up but remained unresponsive.

Ramos said doctors exhausted all approaches to see whether she was able to follow simple commands but were unsuccessful in reaching her.

"She was awake, but she wasn't responding," he said.

The family planned to meet March 8, a Saturday, to make a final decision about taking her off life support.

She woke up Friday.

And Saturday, she said, "take me home."

"Instead of it being a day of sadness, it became a day of joy," Steve Dyer said. "I kept telling them she is a strong woman."

Linda Dyer said she doesn't recall anything about being in the hospital, and the last memory she has is babysitting her grandson in Lake Jackson.

She weeps at the story her husband tells and the way he fought for her.

"I just thank God that I had a husband that stood by me - that stood up for me," she said. "If he didn't fight for me, they probably would have pulled the plug on me."

Dyer was moved to Warm Springs Specialty Hospital after she awoke.

She was released April 2.

Ramos called her recovery uncommon, saying that "we thought she was not going to come out of it."

Dyer had a speedy recovery after waking up and was talking and eating within days.

"Amazingly enough, the road now is just physical therapy to get her back to the point that she was at before getting sick," Ramos said.

When Dyer entered the hospital, she had an upper respiratory infection that caused her lung to collapse.

The experience, Steve Dyer said, shook his family, but not their faith.

He prayed.

He never left.

He always believed.

"Between prayers, her determination and God's will, she's back," he said.

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