Jeanna Giese is the first person known to have survived rabies without receiving a vaccine, Scientific American reported. When she was 15, Giese was infected by a bite from a rabid bat in Fond du Lac, Wisc. Doctors put Giese in an induced coma to allow her immune system enough time to develop antibodies to the virus, and gave her antiviral drugs. Giese survived and recovered most of her cognitive abilities within a few months. Others have since been treated successfully using the same protocol.
The 1990 film "Awakenings," starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, is the true story of how a doctor revived a group of catatonic patients who survived an encephalitis epidemic in the 1920s.
The film is based on the 1973 memoir by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, who treated patients who survived a form of encephalitis called encephalitis lethargica. The disease can trigger delayed physical and mental responses and lethargy, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sacks administered the then-experimental drug L-Dopa, which increases levels of the brain chemical dopamine and is used to treat Parkinson's disease. The treatment "awakened" many of Sacks' patients from their catatonia, hence the name of the film.
One of the more miraculous medical recoveries in recent years have been from infections with the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The parasite, which lives in warm bodies of freshwater, enters through the nose and eats its way along the nerves to the brain, where it munches away at brain cells. The infection is almost always fatal, but a few people have survived. [Infographic: Brain-Eating Amoeba’s Life Cycle]
In August 2013, 12-year-old Kali Hardig of Arkansas became the third person to survive an infection of the brain-eating amoeba. Hardig contracted the parasite at a water park. Doctors gave her a cocktail of antifungal medications that were used to treat two other people successfully in 1978 and 2003, as well as an experimental drug developed for breast cancer. They also cooled down her body to prevent brain damage, a procedure sometimes used to treat traumatic brain injury. Hardig recovered, and is currently attending school.
As far as crucifixion is concerned, it may be possible to survive for a short period of time (indeed, some people take part in non-lethal crucifixion as a devotional practice.) But that's another story.
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