Improbable Resurrections: 5 Real Cases


On Easter Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection, in which he is said to have risen from the dead three days after his crucifixion, according to the New Testament.

Biblical miracles aside, the secular world is replete with stories of recoveries from near-certain death. Over the years, people have survived everything from brain-eating amoebas to comas, and lived to tell the tale.

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Hollywood movies make it seem like comas are nothing more than a light sleep, but the reality is, a person doesn't always awaken from a coma, which is defined as a state of deep unconsciousness that persists for an indefinite period of time. But in rare cases, people have been known to rouse from coma states even after many years.

A woman named Patricia White Bull entered a type of coma called a persistent vegetative state — in which the patient is awake but not responsive — while giving birth to her son, the LA Times reported. White Bull lay in a near-coma for 16 years, when one day in 1999, as a nurse was rearranging her blankets, she reportedly sat up and said, "Don't do that!" Other coma cases of severely brain-damaged patients have been reported, but in most of these, patients either wake up within a few days or weeks, or remain in a coma state for the rest of their lives.

Shot in head

Few injuries can be as instantly fatal as being shot in the head. But on occasion, people have been known to survive the brutal trauma of a bullet to the brain.

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In January 2011, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head in an apparent assassination attempt, during a shooting that left six other people dead. Giffords was in critical condition. Doctors removed part of her skull during surgery to prevent damage from brain swelling, and placed her in a medically induced coma, according to CNN.

The bullet passed through Giffords' skull front-to-back, causing less damage than a shot passing from one hemisphere to the other would have done. Giffords recovered, but she still has difficulty speaking and walking and her right arm is paralyzed.


Everyone's familiar with the image of a rabid dog, mouth frothing and ready to deliver a fatal bite. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing brain disease and death within days of the onset of symptoms.

Usually transmitted to humans by bites from wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, the rabies disease is preventable if treated by vaccination before symptoms begin. But after symptoms occur, survival is rare — there have been fewer than 10 documented cases of human survival from rabies, and only two of these patients had not received preventative drugs, according to the CDC.

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