A Gulf War veteran who was set to die in an Arizona hospital was found to have regained complete consciousness on Tuesday.
A decision to pull Jesse Ramirez, 36, from his feeding tubes on June 8 had been reversed after a lawsuit filed by the rest of his family. The move has paid off now that the man is responding and is set to move to a rehabilitation center.
"We have had a lot of miracles," said Betty Valenzuela, Ramirez's aunt, in the Arizona Republic. "He would have been gone."
On May 30, Ramirez was part of a serious car accident where he suffered multiple injuries and was put into a comatose state. He was placed onto feeding tubes where he received nourishment and water.
Ten days later, the man's wife, Rebecca, 33, asked doctors to pull him from the tubes after they explained that the accident would probably leave the man blind or in vegetative state.
For five days, the hospital withheld sustenance from the injured man, but restored the tubes after the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) – an Ariz.-based Christian law firm – filed a lawsuit on behalf of the rest of Ramirez family.
On Tuesday, a settlement was reached in which all decision-making for the patient will move from wife Rebecca to a court-appointed guardian. The man will also be moved to a rehabilitation center.
Ramirez has regained many skills now, including hugging and kissing, nodding his head, responding to voice commands, and knowing his and his family's identity.
"The decision to withhold food and water was hasty and wrong under Arizona law," explained Byron Babione, a senior legal counsel for ADF who argued two weeks ago before an Arizona judge on behalf of Ramirez's sister, Marlene.
"Jesse had only ten days – about 240 hours – before his feeding tube was removed," he added in a statement.
The incident is similar to case involving Theresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo in Florida in 2005. She too was placed on feeding tubes and was eventually starved to death after authorities removed them. She had been in a vegetative state since 1990, however.
According to a report from Rebecca Ramirez, who was also in the Toyota SUV when it crashed, the accident was a result of a heated argument in the car between the husband and wife about a man's phone number on Rebecca's phone. It was reported that Jesse was suspicious of an affair.
After refusing to let the woman out of the car, she opened her door as if to jump, causing concern to Jesse which led to him to flip the car over and throw them both from the vehicle.
Police are still investigating the reports, however.
Some people have questioned Rebecca's motives in deciding to pull her husband from his feeding tubes so early but Judith Morse, the court-appointed lawyer assigned to mediate the family, felt her concerns were sincere.
"I have no reason to think she doesn't have his best interests in mind," she explained in the Arizona Republic. "All the family members are doing what they think is best."
Others, meanwhile, are blaming the hospital, saying they should not have so quickly complied with the wife's demands. The decision was rushed, they feel.
"Everyone deserves a chance to recover from an injury, and now Jesse has that chance," said Babione. "Jesse put his life on the line for us during the Gulf War. The least that should be done for Jesse and his family is to give him a chance to recover."