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Macon Native Remains In Coma For Seven Years

by Amanda Smith

Macon native Melvin Roberts suffered a stroke on May 3, 2003 and has remained in a coma since then, experiencing some improvement over the years. Until 2005, Roberts' condition was completely comatose, but for the past five years, he has begun to achieve some movement at will, such as opening his eyes, lifting his left arm, and occasionally laughing or smiling.

Roberts grew up on in East Macon and was a tremendous athlete during his teenage years. "Melvin was a heck of an athlete," said Jesse Williams, Roberts' best friend. "We played basketball, baseball and football together. He was a tailback at Appling in his junior year, but he messed up his ankle really bad and couldn't play his senior year." Williams has known Roberts since the 3rd grade, a total of 58 years.

Roberts was living in California with his daughter Regina when he suffered the stroke and resulting coma. "My Dad is diabetic," said Regina. "He was taking his medication and eating right, but he was going through increasing amounts of stress. His cholesterol level also went through the roof and the doctors believe that’s why he had the stroke," she continued.

Roberts' condition is known as a semi-coma. He is not on life support, but he does have a ventilator and a trachea in his throat. According to, coma and semi-coma are described in this way: "In Western medicine coma is understood as a state like sleep, in which individuals are completely unarousable, and unresponsive to external stimulation and to their own inner needs. So called "true coma" of this nature generally persists for two weeks to a month after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Patients that survive pass into a "vegetative state", also known as vigil coma or semi coma. In this state, patients usually open and close their eyes and have sleep/wake cycles."

"For a few hours every day, Dad is taken into the dayroom where other, more functioning patients, participate in activities and where Dad can hear the TV or music," said Regina. "He is somewhat aware, but I’m not sure how much," she continued. "You can ask him questions and he might shake his head "no" and he will laugh sometimes. I've seen him blow kisses and occasionally, he'll lift his arm and try to pull out his trachea. He didn't do these things at first."

Williams last saw Roberts just two months before he suffered the stroke. "I saw Melvin in March of 2003," he said. "He had moved back to Georgia and we had started hanging out again. He called me one day and said he was moving back out to California and we talked on the phone frequently after he left," Williams continued. "Then, on May 3rd, his sister Ernestine called and told me that he'd had a stroke and was in a coma. I was devastated – he's my best friend." Though Williams hasn't seen Roberts since he left Georgia seven years ago, he plans to go to California soon to see his lifelong friend. "I haven't gone out there because I just didn't want to see him like that," he said. "But, I need to go now."

Roberts' daughter stresses the importance of telling the people you care for that you love them. "People should be aware that anything can happen at any time to anyone," Regina said. "Please let your loved ones know how much you care while you can."



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Melvin Roberts and his best friend Jesse Williams