He was paralyzed, but conscious.
For 23 years.
I cannot imagine the horror of that existence.
"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear," he said, via his keyboard.As you can tell from that quote, the situation was discovered and rectified. But still... 23 years! What does one do, trapped in your own mind, for 23 years?
Houben then suffered years of being effectively trapped in his own body as care personnel and doctors at the hospital in Zolder tried to communicate with him, but eventually gave up hope that he would ever come round.
I can't imagine.
Followup, Tues. November 24: This may be a hoax. Pharyngula has a link to some very suspicious video. But nothing is proven one way or the other; the comments are very much worth reading.