Nightly News | December 26, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: Back now with a remarkable health story making headlines. It's about a young man in Australia , brain damaged and thought to be unable to understand anything going on around him. But his fiancee had a hunch after something she'd read on the Internet about using a popular sleeping pill , Ambien , not to help him rest but instead to wake him up. Sometimes a woman's intuition is the best medicine. We get more now from NBC 's Sara James .
SARA JAMES reporting: Sam Goddard of Brisbane , Australia , was an adventurous young Aussie .
Unidentified Man: You all right?
JAMES: But in February 2010 , Sam , just 23 years old, suffered from a series
of mysterious strokes. His parents, John and Leslie: How many strokes did he have?
JOHN: He had eight strokes.
JAMES: Eight strokes.
JOHN: And two of those were massive ones.
JAMES: Doctors said Sam 's brain damage was so extensive that he most likely had the mental capacity of a young child. In a minimally conscious state, Sam
could no longer speak. His fiancee, Sally Nielsen: They said he'd be a vegetable.
Ms. SALLY NIELSEN: Did they use the words "being a vegetable"?
JAMES: They did.
Ms. NIELSEN: But Sally refused to believe there was no help. That's when she read on the Internet that Ambien , the sleeping pill , might actually wake Sam up. Sam 's doctors, however, refused to prescribe it because it's an off-label use. So sally told doctors he needed Ambien to sleep. You kind of gave a little fib.
Ms. NIELSEN: And when Sally gave Sam the Ambien , everything changed. Suddenly he could talk, though his speech is slurred.
JAMES: Hello, Sara .
Mr. SAM GODDARD: Hi, Sam . It's great to hear you talk.
JAMES: It's great to be talking.
Mr. GODDARD: He was no longer trapped in his body. Turns out Sam 's mind was always working, he just couldn't let anyone know. I understand you're good at math. What's 20 times 30?
JAMES: Six hundred.
Mr. GODDARD: Very little research has been done to understand why Ambien wakes up certain brain injured patients but experts say the pill's active ingredient zolpidem triggers more blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Yet it appears less than 10 percent of brain injured patients respond to Ambien and very few as dramatically as Sam. No matter. Sally Nielsen , who says she always knew Sam was in there, is just glad she tried it. Sara James, NBC News, Brisbane, Australia .
JAMES: You can see more of Sara 's remarkable report tonight on "Rock Center" at 10, 9 Central here on NBC . When