Mother awakens after 27 years in a “minimally conscious” state

Son says, “I never gave up on her because I always had a feeling that one day she will wake up”

By Dave Andrusko

Munira Abdulla, who awoke after 27 years, visited the at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built 16 years after a road crash left her in a coma.
[Khushnum Bhandari for The National.]

There are so many layers of miracles to Munira Abdulla’s awakening after 27 years, it’s hard to know where to start.

On Monday, The National, an Emerati-based newspaper, first published details of Abdulla’s amazing recovery, at the urging of her family.

Her family spoke exclusively to The National about their ordeal for the first time, describing a modern-day miracle, and how she has woken to a quite different world.

“I never gave up on her because I always had a feeling that one day she will wake up,” said her son Omar Webair, 32.

Abulla was a passenger in a car in 1991 which collided with a school bus in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Omar, then four years old, experienced only minor injuries, while his mother suffered a brain injury so devastating doctors were convinced she would never regain consciousness.

Why did Omar escape with just a bruise to the head? “My mother was sitting with me in the back seat. When she saw the crash coming she hugged me to protect me from the blow,” Mr. Webair told The National’s Haneen Dajani.

1991 was long before cell phones were common and Omar (now the same age his mother was when she was injured) said it was hours before help arrived. According to Dajani

Ms. Abdulla was taken to hospital, from where she was transferred to one in London. She was completely unresponsive, with next to no awareness of her surroundings. Doctors diagnosed a minimally conscious state. She was moved to a hospital in Al Ain, where she would remain for the next few years. Tube-fed, she underwent physiotherapy to prevent her muscles deteriorating.

Ms Abdulla spent years in hospitals in the UAE, until April 2017 when “the Crown Prince Court heard about her story and gave the family a grant for a comprehensive multidisciplinary programme in Germany.”

And, speaking of miracles, then there were the circumstances preceding her awakening. According to Dr. Ahmad Ryll, Ms. Abdulla’s neurologist in Germany, “Our primary goal was to grant her fragile consciousness the opportunity to develop and prosper in a healthy body, like a delicate plant that needs good soil to grow.”

And “she seemed to gain awareness of the people around her,” Dajani reported.

“I told the doctors I was expecting her to start talking again and they told me ‘you are running wild with your imagination,” Mr. Webair told The National. “We are only doing rehabilitation to fix her quality of life’.”

But then the “unexpected happened” last June during Abdulla’s final week in Germany.

“There was a misunderstanding in the hospital room and she sensed I was at risk, which caused her a shock,” Mr. Webair said. He had been involved in an argument at his mother’s bedside when she began to stir.

“She was making strange sounds and I kept calling the doctors to examine her,” Mr. Webair said. “They said everything was normal.

“Then, three days later, I woke up to the sound of someone calling my name.

“It was her. She was calling my name. I was flying with joy. For years I have dreamt of this moment, and my name was the first word she said.”

Now receiving treatment in Abu Dhabi, needless to say after all these years, Ms. Abdulla’s rehabilitation still has a long ways to go. But, as Dajani reports,

When visited in hospital, Ms Abdulla was able to answer questions, albeit with difficulty, and recited verses from the Quran. She recently visited Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which had not been built when she was injured, accompanied by The National.

Why did her son share his mother’s story? “ [T]o tell people not to lose hope on their loved ones,” Mr. Webair said. “Don’t consider them dead when they are in such a state.

“All those years, the doctors told me she was a hopeless case and that there was no point of the treatment I was seeking for her, but whenever in doubt I put myself in her place and did whatever I could to improve her condition.”