“I’ll never forget that day,” says Rom Houben, “it was like a second birth.” The 46-year-old goes public on how, for 23 years, he was locked inside his own body, in a coma after a near-fatal car accident but unable to tell family, doctors, nurses or therapists. Houben, once an engineering student and a martial-arts expert, was released from his personal prison by a Belgian neurologist, Steven Laureys, who re-examined coma patients using a highly sensitive scanning system. His terrifying story reopens the debate about withdrawal of life support from coma victims and demands that those in a vegetative state here are regularly re-examined for signs of mental activity using state-of-the-art scanning equipment.