"After drowning, Whidbey man emerges from coma"

"Whidbey Island resident Don Backstrom said it is was pure stubbornness that kept him alive.The 73-year-old man defied several doctors several times by simply hanging onto life after his near-fatal drowning accident in Eastern Washington on June 4 - then astounded them by recovering almost completely. He came home to his wife in Coupeville last Friday, weeks ahead of his physicians' expectations.I tell everyone I'm just an obnoxious, hard-headed old Swede, he said.Backstrom sat in a leather chair at his Coupeville home Tuesday morning, which faces an amazing view of the water and the Olympic Mountains. He still needs a walker to get around and he looks a little skinny, but his eyes sparkle as he describes his ordeal.For Backstrom, a retired computer systems developer for Boeing, there's only a two-and-a-half month dark spot in his memory to mark his fight for life. The accident occurred at his family's cabin on Lake Curlew near Republic, Wash. Backstrom was hauling stuff in a six-wheel, all-terrain vehicle from a storage room down a steep incline to the cabin. Though he doesn't remember, he said the best his family has been able to piece together is that he accidentally put the machine into neutral and it coasted downhill, throwing him into the lake.Thankfully, a man named Shawn Nelson was installing flooring in the cabin, heard the commotion and came outside to see Backstrom floating in the water. Nelson pulled him ashore and found that Backstrom wasn't breathing.Coincidentally, Nelson is an EMT and was able to get Backstrom's heart started again with some quick CPR. By 9 p.m. that night, all seven of Backstrom's children were by his bedside at a Spokane hospital. Although he was in a coma at the time, Backstrom said he was extremely gratified when he learned of his family's show of support. His daughter, Stace Marcin, said doctors told the family that they were only keeping Backstrom alive until the family arrived. Doctors were mystified when he was still alive in the morning.Backstrom remained in a coma for about a month while his family dropped everything to keep a 24-hour bedside vigil. Family members had no idea if Backstrom would ever come out of the coma, and if he did, whether he had suffered brain damage or other irreversible trauma.But unexpectedly, he recovered enough to breath on his own and was taken off the respirator. A week later, he was transported to Bethany of the Northwest, a rehabilitation center in Everett.Backstrom said he doesn't remember anything between riding on his all-terrain vehicle to waking up in Everett. He was very confused for the first couple of weeks after coming out of the coma, not knowing where he was and not understanding what happened.I was so flaky I tried to get out of bed twice, he said. I had some really weird hallucinations in rehab, but no shining lights or near-death experiences or anything like that.Even in rehabilitation, Backstrom said the doctors never expected him to go home or recover his mental faculties completely.But again, he proved the experts wrong by relearning to walk and quickly perfecting his speech with the help of therapists.I fooled them all, he said, I got better - quickly. While his kids still joke him about the mental part - My family doesn't believe that I'm mentally recovered, he said - Backstrom claims he feels like his old self and expects to be back to normal in a few months.A year from now, he said he'll be fishing for rainbow trout in Eastern Washington lakes.But for the time being, he's going to smell some metaphorical roses. I just feel grateful to be alive. "

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