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Stroke victim 'just beautiful again,' goes home after 16 months
West Hall woman recovers from vegetative state with husband by her side
0211Bergman5
Nick Pass, with Georgia MedPort Medical Transport, loads Wanda Bergman onto a lift Thursday at New Horizons West nursing home in Gainesville. Bergman went home with her husband after being in the nursing home for the past 16 months. Bergman was recovering from brain surgery complications after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2009. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Wanda Bergman arrived at New Horizons West nursing home in Gainesville in a vegetative state that was supposed to last the rest of her life.

With the help of Georgia MedPort Medical Transport, she left New Horizons on Thursday and headed to her northwest Hall County home for the first time in 16 months. She is still on the mend but now is able to move and speak.

"It's been a remarkable recovery and I think she'll recover more," said her husband, Ron Bergman. "I look forward to her being able to walk in a few months."

"I'm a miracle child," Wanda said.

In 2009, life was going well for the Bergmans, who have been married for eight years and together for 15. In the fall of 2009, they had contracted to remodel their kitchen and bathroom.

It was a Sunday morning and Wanda was scheduled to go the Dawsonville restaurant where she worked, but she felt dizzy and called in sick. Her supervisor insisted and Ron took her to work.

"She collapsed as soon as we got to the front door," he said.

A trip to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center emergency room followed. Doctors discovered she had a brain aneurysm and performed surgery. She suffered a stroke two days later.

On Oct. 31, 2009, her brain was swelling and doctors told Ron that his wife had only 12 to 24 hours to live.

"They allowed me to spend the night with her in intensive care, because they didn't expect her to last until morning," he said. "Her head was swollen and black and blue. I woke up the next morning and went over to her bed expecting to see a corpse.

"But the swelling and discoloration was gone. She was just beautiful again."

Her doctor said, "I don't have a medical explanation for it, but she's recovering."

Wanda spent three months in ICU. Eventually, she ended up at New Horizons West on Dawsonville Highway.

Ron dismissed the grim prognosis that followed her there.

"I didn't believe it," he said. "I prayed every day for strength and wisdom."

Her recovery brightened radically when some time later she began to speak again.

As she became alert, it took her about a month before she began to recognize Ron as her husband. He stayed with her faithfully during those days and while he leaned hard on his faith, some days were harder than others.

"She looked at me one day and said, ‘How do you know so much about me?' I said, ‘Well baby, we're married. We've been together for 15 years,' " he said.

"She said, ‘I'm sorry. I don't remember you.'"

Wanda, hearing her husband recollect that conversation, interrupted him.

"I remember him now. He's my husband; he's been good to me," she said.

He likened her progress to that of a child's maturation from birth, both physically and mentally.

"I was next to her bed when she discovered she had a tongue," Ron said.

The ordeal has inspired him to work toward starting up a bus service for people who are able to leave the nursing home temporarily.

"In the process of being here every day, I've met a lot of the other residents," he said. "... A lot of them are bored and depressed because they can't go anywhere."

For many of them, Medicaid provides medical transportation.

"But there's no non-medical transportation where they can go shopping or to movies or ... activities they might enjoy," Ron said.

He is raising money for the organization, Samaritans of North Georgia.

As for Wanda, she'll continue to get medical attention at home, include a weekly visit by a nurse.

"Right now, she's on a (rehabilitation) plateau, not showing any improvement at the moment," Ron said. "But when she gets a little more control over her left side, we'll work on getting a physical therapist to help get her to walk."

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