Arkansas man who awoke from 19-year coma in 2003 has died aged 57

An Arkansas man who woke up after spending 19 years in a coma has died.

Terry Wayne Wallis, who woke up from an almost 20-year coma in 2003, died last Tuesday at the age of 57, according to an obituary posted by a funeral home.

In July 1984, six weeks after the birth of Wallis’s daughter, Amber, he and a friend were in a serious car accident, in which their car fell into a creek.

The wreck was found underneath a bridge the following day, reported the Associated Press in 2003. Wallis’s friend died and Wallis, who was paralyzed in the crash, fell into a coma.

Wallis stayed in the coma until 12 June 2003, when he uttered a word: “Mom.” The word shocked doctors who believed he would remain unconscious for ever.

“He started out with ‘Mom’ and surprised her and then it was ‘Pepsi’ and then it was ‘milk’,” Alesha Badgley, the social director of Wallis’s rehab facility, told the Associated Press then. “And now it’s anything he wants to say.”

Angilee Wallis, Terry’s mom, said: “I couldn’t tell you my first thought, I just fell over on the floor.”

Wallis’s awakening garnered media and medical attention, with headlines calling him “The Man Who Slept for 19 Years”.

“We all, the whole family, missed out on his company,” said Sandi Wallis, his wife.

Wallis was “relentlessly” cared for by his family during his coma and after regaining consciousness, his obituary said. Wallis’s family brought him home on alternate weekends, which doctors believed contributed to his eventual waking up.

After news of his death, Wallis was remembered for his sense of humor and being a “great teaser”. He enjoyed listening to live music played by his brother Perry Wallis, “eating anything at anytime” and drinking Pepsi, the obituary said.

Wallis is survived by his daughter, several grandchildren, his father and his three siblings, who all live in Big Flat, Arkansas. Angilee Wallis, his mother, died in 2018.