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The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up: A True Story
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The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up: A True Story

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  169 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
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, a neighborhood fixture who was always willing to lend a helping hand, Donny fell into a vegetative state that lasted nearly a decade. H ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Harmony (first published January 1st 2007)
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Rating details
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Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was OK--definitely a quick read (I read it in about 3 hours). I know Donny Herbert was only awake and talking for 16 hours, but I expected there to be more about his conversations/revelations during that time in this book. It was a lot of his biography, describing the life of his family before and after the fire, etc.
Penny Long
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Donny Herbert, a Buffalo firefighter, suffered traumatic brain injuries when a roof collapsed on him in a fire in December of 1995. He remained in a vegetative state for close to ten years and then suddenly one day awoke from his coma and was able to communicate with his family and friends for sixteen hours before once again declining. His story was nothing short of a miracle. That seemed to be the only explanation. Rich Blake's writing style was a bit dry and too journalistic for my taste. His ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
It was a great story but there was too much in the book that could've been left out. I didn't need to know the history of the churches of Buffalo, or their priests, or even street name etc. The actual story about Donny was incredible and made me cry. I wish the author focused more on that instead of everything else. I almost didn't make it past the first few chapters as they are very slow and not interesting. I'm glad I finished it. I think a different author, one outside of the family, probably ...more
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Even though I knew exactly what would happen, the author did an amazing job of telling the true story of Donny Herbert and I couldn't wait to turn each page. Donny was a fireman in Buffalo, NY who was badly injured on the job in 1995 and spent the next ten years in a coma. In 2005, he "woke up" for sixteen hours and was able to communicate with his family, including his four sons, the youngest of whom didn't even remember the sound of his dad's voice. At certain points, the story ventures into ...more
Feb 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, bio
I liked this book, I don't know if I could say I really liked or loved this book. I can say that I loved the story of Donny Herbert and I think there are a lot of untold miracles in world of science. I guess when I started this book I thought it was more about what Donny did and said when he was awake. However I did enjoy hearing of his life and the life of his family. Linda is an incredible women as was Donny an incredible man. This story is one of heartbreak, love, faith, and hope. I hope by r ...more
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: friends, family, firefighters
This book is really interesting to me because it is about one of my best friend's father, Don Herbert, a Buffalo NY firefighter who awoke from a coma-like state in 2005 to talk with his family after 10 years of disability. More than anything, Don (Jr.) is my great friend, i remember that he was travelling in China and India when the story broke international news, and he came home!! Imagine being half way around the world and finding out your dad woke up from a 10 year coma and was talking!!
Jan 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but i felt like there was something missing from it. It was a very touching story but I think there was a little too much back story. I also think If this book was written by Donny's wife or the children that it might have felt a little deeper emotionally. I was expecting to cry my eyes out. I reared up a little but I think the emotions of the event would have been better captured by a close relative. This book is not necessarily a light topic book but it is easy to read.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
To be certain, the story is remarkable. But the writing was pretty choppy (particularly when putting it into the company of the last few books I've read, all of which have been beautifully composed.) If this hadn't been on this book club's list for March, I don't think I would have been drawn in by the jacket. Still, it was surely a most extraordinary experience for this man and particularly his family.

Jun 15, 2008 rated it liked it
A fascinating true story, very slow and uninteresting at the beginning, but it picks up and becomes very compelling. As a mother, of course, it made me ponder how I'd manage my family and life with my husband comatose for over ten years. It certainly is a miracle when Donny Herbert wakes up and spends a day or so with his family, completely and totally "there" before passing away a few months later. Puts life in perspective.
Jennifer Hall
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book would be very meaningful for those that knew and loved Donny Herbert, a young firefighter that was trapped in a vegetative state following an injury he received responding to a fire. For an outside reader it was a bit too much. Too contrived, too in depth. While I really was glad that Donny was able to wake up and talk to his family I wish the book were more centered around the injury and awakening, and less about everything else.
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
A sweet book about a family dealing with the loss of their father to a tragic accident, which left him in a semi-conscious/vegetative state for over 9 years before he miraculously woke up and spoke to them for one day. Paints a good picture of life as a fireman, the Catholic community of Buffalo, and the strength and courage required to support and love a person through such a traumatic injury
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Donny Herbert, a Buffalo NY firefighter with a severe brain injury, made national news in April 2005 when he suddenly became responsive after years of being minimally conscious for years. Rich Blake, a Buffalo native, has not only presented a moving story of one man, but also a tribute to South Buffalo, Father Nelson Baker, and the powers of love and faith.
TheRLPL Rice Lake Public Library
Patron Review:
About a firefighter who is in a coma for 9/10 years (can't remember exactly) and wakes up for one day before passing away. It's a good reminder to take advantage of every day. His (Donny's) family, friends, and coworkers remained very dedicated to Donny in the years he was in a coma.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Your mother should read it. I need to recommend it to mine. It's horribly sappy and will make you cry if that's the kind of person you are. It's like a lifetime movie in book form. Based on a true story and everything.
Gerardo Corripio
Dec 19, 2014 rated it liked it
For those who don't believe in miracles? a very good testament to what others who do believe, can do to a person! I admit, some parts where his life were discussed were kind of boring, but other than that? a gery good read! Left me with a very positive message!
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book and it was OK, but a lot of the time it felt like I was reading a history of the town, the Catholic priests who served there and extensive medical history of Donny Herbert and all his family including a record of every street they ever lived on.
Jennifer Christofersen
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. I admire his family for their strength through the years they spent watching Donny sleep. I am from Buffalo NY. I am also an ER nurse who has great admiration for fire fighters and their bravery.

Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have to agree with some of the other reviews on this book. The story of a Buffalo firefighter itself is amazing. The way it was told, not so much. It felt like the real story was buried beneath mounds of obvious detail.
Dec 28, 2007 marked it as to-read
I knew the family -- my sister was their regular babysitter (and I filled in for her sometimes). It was an interesting book & it was nice to learn more about things I only knew bits & pieces of before.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Uplifting and thought-provoking, even with the "sad" ending. Needed some tighter editing, though, and I would have liked to have more on the "awake" period, and to learn more about the pursuit of the miracle.
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I heard about this true story last month and was so interested, I wanted to read the book. It really raised questions about what to do when a person's mind continues working when the body is no longer functioning. A good, inspiring, short read.
Olean Public Library
This was a very good book. The author is a cousin of Linda, Donny’s wife. He did a great job of portraying the struggles that the family went through. As a volunteer at the Father Baker Manor I got to know Donny. He had a beautiful smile.
Leslie Erin Quinn
May 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was just OK. Had a lot of sort of useless information about stuff sort of related to Donny Herbert but seemed like it would have made a much better magazine or journal article. A very short read.
Sharon R
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Good story but it seems to get lost in the history of churches, neighborhoods. Seems more like a who's who catholic churches.
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beautiful story of one of the most difficult battles a family can face. Also interesting b/c took place in a city I'm familiar with.
May 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a very sweet book. I think I expected something a little different, but was pleased with the writing and the story. I woudl recommend this book to anyone!
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Endurance and the resilience of the human spirit are showcased in this short but engaging book. A great tribute to those who step out to rescue the rest of us.
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
AMAZING. You just have to read it.
Powder River Rose
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Narrated by Kimberly Farr

Excellent, heartbreaking and heartwarming. A story of faith, hope, and love as well as courage and loyalty. Through it all the family stayed together and grew.
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