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What is Locked In syndrome?

Locked In syndrome is a condition in which sufferers are unable to move any part of their body. In many cases they can only communicate using their eyes, but in some cases the eyes are paralysed too. People can develop Locked In syndrome following a brain injury, stroke or medication overdose.

The prognosis for people with Locked In syndrome is unfortunately bleak, with over 90% of sufferers dying within four months. However some people may live longer and - in extremely rare cases - some people can actually make a full recovery.

Kate Allatt was one of those people. She was fit and healthy, with a husband and kids, when she went to hospital complaining of a very sore head. She was given painkillers, went home and had a sudden stroke. She woke up on a life support machine, fully conscious, able to hear and aware of everything going on, but she could not move a muscle or speak.

The first positive sign was when her husband saw her shed a tear. She could communicate only by blinking but then slowly she began making her thumb twitch then in the end made a full recovery.

One of the most famous cases was that of Jean-Dominique Bauby. He suffered a stroke which resulted in Locked In syndrome. He wrote the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly while having the condition. He used blinking for each letter and took around two minutes per word. The book was published in 1997 and Bauby died shortly after.

Although the prognosis isn’t positive for most people with the condition, it's possible to look at cases where people have made recoveries and not give up hope. Locked In syndrome is a terrifying experience for anyone to suffer, and medical professionals are working hard to better understand the condition and help sufferers and their families.

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