Man Trapped In 23-Year 'Coma' Was Conscious. An engineering student thought to be in a coma for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time, it has emerged. Skip related content Rom Houben was misdiagnosed as being in a vegetative state after a car crash left him totally paralysed. For the whole time, he was trapped in his own body with no way of letting friends and family know he could hear every word they were saying. The 46-year-old, who can now tap out computerised messages and read books on a device above his hospital bed, has revealed: "I screamed, but there was nothing to hear. "All that time I literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt. "I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth. "I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy life now people know I am not dead." His misdiagnosis was discovered by neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys, who fears there may be similar cases all over the world. He looked at Mr Houben's case again at the University of Liege, Belgium, using state-of-the-art imaging that showed the patient was aware of what was happening around him even though he had lost control of his body. Dr Laureys, who leads the Coma Science Group, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Sky News Online. He told the Daily Telegraph: "In Germany alone each year some 100,000 people suffer from severe traumatic brain injury. "About 20,000 are followed by a coma of three weeks or longer. Some of them die, others regain health. "But an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people a year, remain trapped in an intermediate stage: they go on living without ever come back again." Rom, a martial arts enthusiast who remains in constant care at a facility near Brussels, was repeatedly wrongly assessed in Zolder, Belgium, by doctors using technology available at the time. They used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his eye, verbal and motor responses. But each time he was graded incorrectly. The disclosure is likely to renew the right-to-die debate over whether people in comas are truly unconscious. There have been several cases where people in deep comas have recovered. Carrie Coons, 86, from New York, regained consciousness 20 years ago. Days before her recovery, a judge had granted a request for the removal of her feeding tube which had been keeping her alive.