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Actor Martin Lawrence Felled by Heat Exhaustion

Celebrity: The movie and TV star emerges from the coma he slipped into after collapsing Sunday. Doctors say his condition remains critical but stable.

August 26, 1999|COLL METCALFE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Martin Lawrence regained consciousness Wednesday after slipping into a coma caused by severe heat exhaustion, according to doctors at Columbia Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.

The 34-year-old Lawrence, star of the television show "Martin" and films such as "Life," "Bad Boys" and "Nothing to Lose," collapsed and fell into a coma Sunday after returning to his Westlake Village home from a jog.

Doctors listed the actor in critical but stable condition and said they are encouraged by his progress.

Lawrence is alert and responsive, but his breathing is being aided by a ventilator, which is preventing him from speaking, hospital officials said.

"He's becoming more and more responsive and we're very encouraged that he's come out of his coma," said hospital spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman. "But this is going to be a day-by-day thing. . . . We'll know more as time goes on."

According to Carraway-Bowman, Lawrence left his home about 11:30 a.m. for an hourlong run through his neighborhood. Temperatures in the Conejo Valley were approaching 100 degrees.

A family member became concerned when Lawrence didn't return and went to look for him. Lawrence was found on his lawn, slumped over, moaning and having difficulty breathing, officials said.

When paramedics arrived, Lawrence was unconscious.

His temperature was 107 degrees and doctors worked to cool his body with cold water, ice and fans, Carraway-Bowman said.

"He was in very critical and unstable condition when he arrived," she said.

According to doctors, when the body becomes overheated, muscles begin to break down into proteins, which then flow through the blood. The kidneys, which clean the blood, become clogged with proteins, which can cause a coma or death.

Extreme overheating also can cause permanent kidney, brain and cardiac damage.

Doctors said Lawrence is experiencing kidney problems but are unsure if they will be permanent.

Other tests showed no brain or heart damage.

"His vital signs are stable, which is a good sign," said his physician, Dr. Paul Block.

For Lawrence, this is the latest in a string of problems.

In May 1996, Lawrence ran into traffic on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks screaming "fight the establishment" at oncoming cars. He was led away by police, who later found a gun in his pocket.

Later that year, actress Tisha Campbell filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment. The case was settled out of court.

Lawrence also was arrested twice, once at the Burbank Airport for carrying a loaded pistol in his travel bag and another time for striking a man in a nightclub.

Lawrence was convicted and did community service in both cases.

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