Kerstin Fritzl, the 19-year-old who was born in a dungeon prison and whose father held her captive, along with two siblings and her mother, has woken up from her medically induced coma and has been reunited with her mother, Elisabeth, and her siblings.
"It is Sunday, June 1 …, 9 a.m. I said, 'Hello Kerstin,' and she said 'Hello' to me," said Dr. Albert Reiter, who has been in charge of treating Kerstin for a life-threatening medical condition since she was brought to his hospital in Amstetten, Austria, April 19.
"Her 'hello' marked the beginning of a new life, the end of a long time of suffering," said an obviously emotional Reiter.
After arriving at the hospital unconscious and with multiple organ failure, Kerstin suffered seizures and, in addition to the induced coma, had to be placed on a respirator and underwent dialysis because of the effects of lack of oxygen. Her condition had been described as critical.
Kerstin is the oldest of seven children whom authorities say Austrian Josef Fritzl, 72, has confessed to fathering in a windowless dungeon at the family home in Amstetten, where he held daughter Elisabeth captive and abused her for 24 years.
Fritzl forced three of those children, including Kerstin, to remain in the basement with their mother. Three other children were allowed to live upstairs with him and his wife, Rosemarie, and one child died as an infant in the basement shortly after birth.
Fritzl's crime came to light two months ago when Kerstin was taken to the hospital. Her hospitalization triggered the discovery of the dungeon at the family home.
Awaking With a Smile
Today, doctors in charge of her treatment were all too happy to tell reporters at a press conference that Kerstin had emerged from the artificially induced coma.
"On May 15, she opened her eyes for the first time and we smiled at her and she smiled back at us," Reiter told reporters. "That's when we figured she was going to recover, and that's when her mother came to see her and they spent some time together. Her mother has been seeing her every day since, and she has made a very remarkable recovery."
"Last Sunday I brought her to the clinic where her family is staying, and I was there to witness a very touching moment, when she was reunited with her mother, her grandmother and her siblings."
Reiter said he expects the 19-year-old to recover fully.
"We expect her to develop normally, and we expect no lasting damage, but she is traumatized and it will take time for her to overcome that. She will continue to need intensive medical and therapeutic care, but we're very confident that she will do just fine over time."
Asked what Kerstin's wishes were, the doctor replied, "She badly wants to attend a Robbie Williams concert and she wants to go on a boat ride as soon as possible."
A Plea for Privacy
Christoph Herbst, the family lawyer, also attended today's press conference.
He reported that Elisabeth and the children were doing fine.
"The family is very happy to be reunited for the first time since Kerstin's recovery. It is just very touching to see how they are bonding," Herbst, said. "They all had been missing Kerstin and had been hoping to have her back. It is only now, that they can begin a new life together."
The lawyer also appealed to the international media.
"Some of the family members would really like to go outside and enjoy the nature, so please leave them alone in as much as you can," he said. "Please respect their privacy and don't follow them around, try to reduce your interest in them to a minimum," he said, looking at the photographers and cameramen covering the press conference.
Elisabeth, Rosemarie and the six children are staying in a well-protected apartment at the Landesklinikum Amstetten-Mauer hospital, where a team of specialists looks after them.
Josef Fritzl is being held in custody, and his trial on charges related to the imprisonment and the death of the seventh child is expected to begin before the end of the year.