Donny Herbert was a hardworking Buffalo city firefighter who, in December 1995, was searching the attic of a burning house when the snow-laden roof collapsed. For six minutes he was without oxygen. A beloved husband, a father of four boys, Donny fell into a vegetative state that lasted nearly a decade. He was, for all practical purposes, gone - until one day, in April 2005, when he woke up and spoke almost nonstop to his family and loved ones for nearly 18 hours. Here is the story of this remarkable moment, which was covered by the press worldwide. For his wife, Linda, it was a miracle. For his doctors and nurses, it was a medical mystery. For his sons, including his youngest, with whom he had never before had a conversation, it was a blessing. After his remarkable day, Donny Herbert fell into a deep sleep and never experienced a comparable moment of clarity. He died in February 2006 from pneumonia.
Written by Linda's cousin, The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up makes the listener wonder: What brought Donny back? More than anything, Linda credits Donny himself, a man with the strength to will himself back into his family's lives, if only to remind them one last time of how very much he loved them. This is as much Linda's story, one of perseverance and faith, as it is of a remarkable husband, father, and firefighter.
"[A] gripping true story." (Publishers Weekly)
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Moving, Memorable, but with some flaws
Donny Herbert was a Buffalo firefighter and father of 4 boys who was injured when a burning roof collapsed on him depriving him of oxygen for 6 minutes, and simultaneously smashing his head with a large piece of roof. After 10 years in coma, he one day wakes up and talks to his family for 16 hours. Not long afterwards, he dies. I had seen mention of this on TV and it sounded just too interesting not to need to know every detail. What did he say to his family? I had to know! The beginning was rather long and had a lot of extraneous info on Buffalo and a lot of stuff on local priests but the main thing I noticed was what a good family man the guy was - how he loved to spend time with his kids - took his 3 year old everywhere with him. Now perhaps since the book is a loving tribute to a dead man his good qualities are exaggerated, however, it was touching. I was drawn to the book also because I am interested in how people change their lives to deal with things like this. And I have to say this book has really stuck with me more than most things I’ve read.
Anyway, I did have to agree with one criticism that I saw in reviews, which is just that I wanted more detail of the conversations that took place during his return to consciousness. These were incredibly powerful moments and I wanted every detail. Maybe they didn't remember every detail or maybe they felt it too personal. And don't get me wrong there was definitely some of it. I just wanted more. I was particularly interested in the interaction between Donny and his 7th grade son, who had been his constant companion, but a toddler, at the time of the accident. He had no memory of his father's voice even. That was the saddest part I thought - although as someone who didn't remember the before, little Nicky Herbert was the least emotionally scarred by the loss. But just imagining that scenario from the point of view of a parent was very powerful.
One criticism is that the book dragged a bit at times due to the author's tendency to drop off into detail about anyone or anything mentioned for the first time, thus resulting in the forward motion of the plot stalling. The most blatant example is when Donny's wife gets a new doctor for him and the guy was Indian. That not only resulted in hearing the life story of that doctor before moving on to what he did for Donny but also in us hearing the history of the section of India that he came from. Audio is a HUGE help with this book flaw. I might not have lasted in another format. But because it moved me and stuck with me I will give it 3 stars despite a certain number of flaws.
- Karen K