(NEXSTAR) – An Arkansas man whose story made national headlines when he regained consciousness after nearly two decades in a coma has died at the age of 57, according to his obituary.
A car accident in 1984 left Terry Wayne Wallis, of Big Flat, in a coma for 19 years until he stunned family members and doctors in 2003 by regaining awareness and speaking.
“He started out with ‘Mom’ and surprised her and then it was ‘Pepsi’ and then it was ‘milk,’” Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center social director Alesha Badgley told the Associated Press shortly after Wallis returned to consciousness.
Wallis had been riding with a friend when the vehicle they were in veered off the road and down into a creek, killing his friend and leaving him comatose.
The accident left Wallis unable to use his limbs, but his vocabulary returned steadily and he was soon talking almost “nonstop,” Wallis’ father, Jerry Wallis, told the AP.
For Wallis, however, the world stopped with the accident – he believed Ronald Reagan was still president and requested a call to his grandmother, who had died several years earlier. He even recited her phone number from memory.
Wallis became known as “The Man Who Slept for 19 Years,” and his remarkable story was the source of numerous news and medical articles over the years, according to his obituary.
“His mother and all of his family cared for him relentlessly during his coma and afterwards,” according to his obituary. “His family would bring him home on alternate weekends for years. Doctors believe that this stimulation contributed to his awakening period.”
He “enjoyed eating anything at anytime and loved drinking Pepsi” and is remembered for his “wonderful sense of humor.”
“Terry was a great teaser and loved to tease his sister,” the obituary continues. “His wonderful sense of humor will be greatly missed by his family.”
Wallis is survived by his daughter, Amber, who was born shortly before the accident, as well as his father and grandchildren.
Wallis died on Tuesday, March 29, at Advanced Care in Searcy, Arkansas, according to the obituary.