"Could she even hear in there?"

Creative Commons AttributionComa - Credit: Peter Savich
In Western medicine, coma is understood as a state like sleep, in which individuals are completely unarousable and unresponsive to external stimulation or their own inner needs. So called “true coma” of this nature generally persists for two weeks to a month after traumatic brain injury. Patients that survive pass into a “vegetative state”, also known as vigil coma or semi coma. In this state, patients usually open and close their eyes and have sleep/wake cycles.

People in coma sometimes show signs that they are able to hear and understand. Often these signs are just simple reflexes -- like squeezing a hand, or sucking, in response to a touch. Occasionally people in coma seem to become calm when they hear a familiar voice. Since they almost never remember these events, it is impossible to know if they actually recognized a voice or understood what was said.