Doctors at three Upstate New York hospitals had been stymied by Donna Landrigan, whose case was unlike any they had seen. The previously healthy 35-year-old mother of three had initially become so psychotic she had to be tied to her hospital bed to keep her from hurting herself or attacking others. A few weeks later she had been placed in a medically induced coma to protect her from the continuous seizures wracking her brain, spasms that could have killed her.
Every promising lead had seemed to turn into a dead end, and the dangers of prolonged coma, including severe brain damage, were mounting. Things looked so hopeless that doctors had begun discussing whether to suggest terminating life support.