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Doctors Say Mix of Medicine and God Played Role in Firefighter's Recovery

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Doctors believe a mix of medicine and God has played a role in the remarkable changes of a severely injured Buffalo firefighter. Wednesday, the wife of Donald Herbert, 43, and his doctors appeared before reporters at the Erie County Medical Center.

"When Don spoke, he was under the impression he was only away for three months," Linda Herbert said. "He was very surprised to find out it was nine-and-a- half years."

Mrs. Herbert offered a statement to the media about the incredible changes in her husband's condition that occurred this past weekend. Herbert began talking for the first time in almost a decade to his wife and children. The firefighter lost oxygen and suffered brain damage when a roof collapsed during a fire in 1995. When he was injured, his youngest son was just a toddler.

"My husband did not believe it was Nicholas because he thought he was still three-years-old. Since Saturday, when Don stopped speaking, he has had several infrequent moments of lucidity," Mrs. Herbert said. "That has given us much hope for further recovery."

Doctors were asked if it is a miracle or medication that contributed to Herbert's physical changes. One of his doctors, Jamil Ahmed, at ECMC has been treating him with mix of neuro-stimulants used for Attention Deficit Disorder and Parkinson's Disease. But Ahmed mentioned more than once that he believes God was a factor in Herbert's changes.

"To me, it is definitely God. God is the one who helps," Ahmed said. "But it also had to be the medications."

Herbert's attending physician at Father Baker Manor where he lives, Dr. Eileen Reilly, says she considers it a miracle.

"I think so," Reilly said. "I've had a very limited exposure to this because I'm in family medicine and it is new to me. But it is remarkable. When I started taking care of Don and first saw him he had very little response. He could squeeze my hand, but nothing verbal."

Herbert is confined to a wheelchair, is blind and has a feeding tube. But doctors now say with aggressive physical and speech therapies, they expect him to improve. In fact, Dr. Ahmed says he believes that Herbert could end up walking and eating on his own.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear excerpts of Wednesday's news conference.