Clodagh and her partner Adrian Simpson.
A PSNI officer from Magherafelt is to launch a book today telling the story of her battle with locked-in syndrome and her recovery.
Clodagh Dunlop suffered a brainstem stroke at the age of 35, which left her unable to move or communicate, while being aware of everything that was going on around her.
Clodagh battled locked-in syndrome – a rare condition which completely paralyses the body, apart from muscles which control eye movement – for three months, believing that she would be a prisoner in her own body forever.
“Locked in syndrome is a truly horrifying ordeal and I was convinced many times that I was going to die in hospital because I couldn’t communicate the fact that I was overheating or in pain,” Clodagh said.
“It was only because my partner Adrian noticed I could blink that we were able to work out a way of communicating until I could learn to make a sound again.”
Clodagh's new book 'A Return to Duty' details her struggle to recover against the odds from that moment to her return to PSNI service 18 months after her stroke.
The book launch will be held in Café Parisien in Belfast from 11.15am this morning – Tuesday, November 26.
Further launch events will be held at The Bridewell, Magherafelt from 12pm on Saturday, November 30 and from 3pm-4pm on the same day at Sheehys in Cookstown.
Although Clodagh does not have full use of her right arm and leg, she is pleased that she has defied doctors' predictions that she would always need to use a wheelchair.
“I found it very difficult to stay positive when during my rehabilitation I was asked by healthcare staff if my family had selected a nursing home for me,” she said.
“I was told to expect to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and, while I’m delighted that isn’t the case, I believe that my determination has helped immensely in my recovery.”
She plans to use the proceeds from the book to fund treatment in America, which could further improve her mobility.
“I’m looking at specialist residential rehabilitation centres in the US costing several thousand pounds a week, where everything from diet, to splints, specialist massage of muscles and physio with state-of-the-art technology, would be tailored to my specific needs,” Clodagh said.
“I’ve also investigated cutting-edge technology which would also help promote muscle rehabilitation in my leg.
That would help me walk with more stability while a specialist hand system would allow me to open and close my right hand while strengthening the muscles.”
“However, these devices cost over £10,000 to buy and several thousand pounds a year to maintain, alongside the cost of the intense physio I continue to need. I know I’ll never be 100% back to full fitness but I am determined to be the best version of me I can be.”
She also said that she hopes the book can help persuade the government to introduce new legislation to reshape stroke services and the treatment of those affected by locked-in syndrome.
“Writing the book made me laugh and cry as I relived the experience and I will be delighted if this book can help anyone who has a friend or family member going through a similar situation to understand what is happening,” Clodagh said.
“I know how fortunate I am to enjoy the quality of life that I do, because I know this is not the case for many survivors of locked in syndrome, and that is thanks to Adrian and my family and the dedication of the healthcare workers who helped me learn to breathe, talk and walk again.”
A Return to Duty is available to buy at beatinglockedin.com for £9.99 and at branches of Waterstones.
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