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Mother Claims Son Spoke Again, Doctors Doubtful

February 20, 1996

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ The brain-damaged police officer who broke a 7 1/2-year silence last week has spoken again, his mother says. Doctors were doubtful.

Corena Thompson told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Monday that she asked her son, Gary Dockery, if he would like to go camping with an aunt after he recovered from lung surgery.

``I said, `Is that all right?′ And he said, `Yep,‴ Mrs. Thompson said.

But Dr. James Folkening said he doubted Dockery has spoken since his mysterious talking spree last week _ his first words since being shot in the head in 1988.

``This may have been hopeful interpretation on her part,″ Folkening said of Mrs. Thompson.

Dockery makes noises when repositioned or in response to pain, but ``nothing approaching intelligible speech,″ he said.

Mrs. Thompson said her son always has been more receptive to family members than doctors.

Dockery amazed relatives and doctors by suddenly speaking coherently on Feb. 12, a day after he was hospitalized for life-threatening pneumonia.

Since surgery Thursday to remove infectious fluid from his lungs, he has communicated by moving his eyes, squeezing hands, nodding to answer questions and moving his leg and arm, neurologist Bruce Kaplan said.

Kaplan said no other family members have reported hearing Dockery speak, but that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there.

``There are connections in the brain that perhaps will turn on again either spontaneously or under some influences we have not yet been able to ascertain,″ Kaplan said.

``We’ll get him to talk again or he will get himself to talk again.″

Dockery, 42, was shot in the head by a drunken man while on duty in Walden, 10 miles from Chattanooga. Since then, he occasionally has communicated by blinking his eyes or nodding his head while receiving care at a nursing home.

Kaplan said Dockery was severely disabled neurologically but was not in a vegetativelike state, as initially reported.

Coma patients either die within two to four weeks or they slip into another state of consciousness, he said. Patients in a vegetative state have sleep patterns and periods of wakefulness, but no real interaction with their environment.

Mrs. Thompson said she knew why her son spoke after such a long period.

``I have prayed for 7 1/2 years that if God would just let him come back and let him talk that I would use this to show people just what a miracle God could do,″ she said.

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