Medically Induced Coma

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The cases of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Randal McCloy Jr, the sole survivor of the West Virginia mine tragedy, have put medically induced comas in the spotlight. Here's the survival story of a local woman who suffered a stroke and underwent the procedure.

71 year old day care owner, Laura Burrell, is learning how to live all over again. In 2004 she suffered a stroke while in the hospital for pneumonia. A blood platelet formed in her neck and cut off her oxygen supply.

That's when doctors put her in a medically induced coma and hoped for the best. The technique prevented brain injury and Mrs Burrell was expected to make a substantial recovery.

“Initially I could not imagine why this hand was so heavy. It was the first thing that I noticed. My speech was impaired and my vision was off and of course my memory was effected," said Burrell.

Mrs. Burrell was also unable to walk and the left side of her face was paralyzed. But she wouldn't stay that way for long.

Mrs Burrell says it was her desire to get back to her daycare which gave her the determination to work towards a speedy recovery.

"The most supportive thing was the daycare and the staff here. We would not have been able to keep our doors open had it not been for their diligence," said Burrell.

Neurosurgeon, Dr Jonathon Friedman, says medically induced comas are usually reserved for critical ill patients and those of suffered brain injuries.

"Swelling in the brain is a very dangerous problem because it's inside the skull and there's no place to swell. The sedation medicines that can cause a medically induced coma can reduce that swelling or at least try to keep it from becoming life threatening," said Dr Friedman.

Mrs Burrell's recovery is still an ongoing process. But there's little doubt that the induced coma gave her the best opportunity to heal. And with faith and rehab, that's something Mrs. Burrell is determined to do.

Doctors say there is no official rule on how long you can leave a patient in a medically induced coma. The recovery process for each patient is determined by the type of initial injuries they sustained.