Locked-in syndrome miracle: Saved by my family's love- Televsion, newspaper, magazines and radio- ***September 2010***

Former locked-in syndrome sufferer Kerry Pink contacted us wanting to tell her story to inspire others still suffering from the same condition.


We set up a deal and an interview for Kerry with the Daily Mail newspaper.


She has appeared on the GMTV sofa with Emma Bunton and we have also set her up with a magazine deal.


Today she appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 5 Live.


The story originally appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper's Femail section and across two pages inside.


Kerry was delighted with the article, the make-over and the fee.


Read the full story below


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I lay paralysed and unable to speak for 18 months... but my family's unyielding love brought about a true miracle


DAILY MAIL NEWSPAPER

My daughter Georgie had just made her first tentative lap of our cul-de-sac on her new bike, but I had not been able to share her small triumph.

Instead, she told me at my hospital bedside. I desperately wanted to sweep her into my arms and tell her what a clever girl she was but I was incapable of speech or movement. My eyes pricked with tears but I couldn't even brush them away.

For 18 months I lay paralysed in hospital, locked into a motionless body, conscious of the conversations around me but unable to respond.

I heard Georgie and my seven-year-old son Alexander (AJ) tell me they loved me, but I could not reassure them that I loved them back.

And as far as I knew, no one in my family even knew I could actually hear.
It is difficult to describe the peculiar form of torture that is 'locked-in syndrome'.

There were days when I fell into a deep coma and was aware of nothing. I receded into a world without sight, sound or movement.

But there were other times when I drifted back into consciousness and picked up snippets of conversation; when I heard words that frightened or frustrated me; reassured me or cheered me.

My memories are blurred. But some things remain absolutely certain. I know that however dark the twilight world I inhabited, I never lost my will to live.

I was always determined to come back home. And it was my absolute faith in my husband Greg's love that propelled me on  -  that and, of course, the knowledge that my two beloved children needed me there to care for them.

And miraculously, I did eventually make it back to our house in Cranleigh, Surrey. I spent 18 months in a coma, induced by a neurological illness that began suddenly and inexplicably and has never been identified.

For months I hovered on the brink of death, unable to move or communicate. Then for a further three years I was shunted between hospitals and institutions. 



The haul back to consciousness was slow and painstaking. But today, although confined to a wheelchair, I am back living with Greg and my children and speaking as fluently as ever.

It was when I read last month about Richard Rudd, the father of two loving daughters who is trapped in a coma following a motorbike accident, that I felt compelled to send him a message of hope.

For when his doctor asked him if he wished to stay alive, Richard used a blink of his eyes to convey the one-word answer: 'Yes'. 

It was an incredible moment that showed the strength of a man's will to survive. It's a life-force that I myself have experienced  -  and I want to show Richard that it is worth battling on.

In sickness and in health: Kerry's husband Greg has been constantly at her side as she recovers

In sickness and in health: Kerry's husband Greg was constantly at her side as she recovered

It was 1997 when all our lives changed irrevocably. I was 35, working as an interior designer, Greg was an architect, our children were six and four. Then I started to get the most blinding headaches. 

My GP told me to take paracetamol but it had no effect. The headaches got worse. They were like an axe cutting through my skull. Greg was beside himself with worry and, frankly, I was petrified.

Then on Christmas Day 1997, a few months after the headaches started, we were due at our next-door neighbours' for lunch.

I walked through their front door and was sick before I could get to the loo. Greg took me home and tucked me up in bed; my GP said I was suffering from a bug. Then I deteriorated sharply.

On Boxing Day afternoon Greg discovered me in the throes of a violent fit. I was rushed to hospital in Guildford for a CT scan. 

I remember nothing more until I woke up two days later at the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon where they'd diagnosed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and fitted a valve to drain off the fluid.

Enduring love: Kerry and Greg on their wedding day in 1986

Enduring love: Kerry and Greg on their wedding day in 1986



I was in the operating theatre for ten hours before being transferred to the intensive care unit. Complications set in. The valve became blocked and I had to have it replaced. This happened six times.

Then I developed a chest infection and had to have my lungs drained. By June 1999, three months later, I had slipped into a deep coma.

A tube was inserted into my stomach to feed me and my condition deteriorated. I now know that it was at this point that the doctors asked Greg: 'Do you want us to keep on  -  or shall we pull the plug?' But Greg was adamant that they carry on.

Later  -  I do not have any conception of whether it was days or weeks  -  I heard doctors' voices round my bed. I had emerged from the coma but was now locked in and unable to respond.

They were saying: 'She won't make it.' I remember a flash of abject terror, then anger. I clearly recall thinking: 'How dare they say I'm not going to pull through.'

I don't ever recall being worried that the doctors would allow me to die. I always had absolute faith that Greg would not let them.

Three months later, I was transferred to the neurological hospital in Putney, South London, where I remained until April of 2000.

Much remains a blur, but in my lucid moments I was aware of friends and family around the bed. Greg had refused to give up hope and the whole family would talk to me and tell me to keep fighting.

The children's voices saying: 'Mummy we love you. Come home soon!' seeped into my consciousness and gave me strength.

I remember Greg showing me the presents he'd chosen for their birthdays and Christmas. He bought in AJ's first big bike; he showed me a keyboard he'd chosen for them.

At times I was crushed with sadness. AJ had to have an operation to remove some teeth and I wanted to tell him to be a brave little soldier and throw my arms round him in a huge, reassuring hug. Then Georgie had surgery on a toe and I wanted so much to tell her how proud I was that she hadn't cried. 

But I couldn't, and the frustration and sorrow were dreadful. I knew I was missing so much. I longed to see Georgie pirouetting in her new ballet pumps and AJ karate kick. Sometimes tears of frustration came or I just drifted back into deep unconsciousness.


'I heard the doctors say, "She won't make it". I felt a flash of abject terror, then anger. There was no way my husband would ever let me die'


Greg visited my bedside every single day after work. As well as this, he had to be a father and work to earn a living. Thankfully, his mother Sheila moved into our home and remained for five years to help with the children.

Each day Greg read to me from the newspapers  -  but only from the sports sections and sometimes I'd wish he'd move on to something more interesting.

Every night when he kissed me gently goodbye, he'd tell me: 'Don't ever forget that I love you.' Of course, I  appreciated his devotion but I did feel a little miffed.

Before, he'd always said: 'I'll love you for ever and ever and a day and a half and a bit and a quarter,' and I wanted him to say that to me instead.

Meanwhile, I remained in a quagmire. I was being fed by a tube directly into my stomach, my limbs had wasted and I weighed just 6st. Greg was told I had only weeks to live.

I was transferred to Oakcroft, a nursing home in West Byfleet, Surrey  -  I didn't realise at the time but, as far as the medics were concerned, I was actually being sent there to die. Thankfully my stubborn streak kicked in.

My widowed mum Laine, 73, visited each day. She'd say: 'Come on girl. You're strong. You have to get through this. Daddy wouldn't want to see you lying here like this.' My father had been an airline pilot and had died just a month after AJ was born.

After seven months of being locked in, a small miracle occurred. My sister Dale, a hairdresser, was visiting with her toddler, Eloise, when she offered me a biscuit. 'Would you like a lick?' she asked  -  and I put out my tongue and tasted it.

Everyone was absolutely delirious with happiness. At the time, I had no idea how significant the milestone was, but I do remember feeling desperate for something sweet and tasty to eat  -  and had stuck out my tongue instinctively.

Bedside vigil: Her devoted children Georgie and A.J.

Bedside vigil: Her devoted children Georgie and A.J.

Then, on New Year's Eve 2000, I uttered my first word. Dale, then 30, was asking me if I'd like a taste of wine. She kept repeating 'Red or white?' and I found myself blurting out the word: 'White.'

Again, I wasn't aware of what a breakthrough this was  -  I had not made a conscious decision to speak  -  so I didn't feel euphoric. But apparently Dale ran around shouting: 'She's spoken! She's spoken!'

After that, little by little, movement began to return to my limbs. I was moved into a wheelchair, strapped into an upright position to begin with. As I improved physically, my mental awareness sharpened. I was able to understand the staff and thanks to speech therapy, I began to utter more words.

The next turning point was even more significant. One of my consultants decided it was worth operating on my feet  -  which had become clenched and deformed during my four years of immobility  -  to improve my chances of learning to walk again.

The surgeon, Mr Hollingsworth, said: 'I'd like to make your feet straighter. It will be painful, but I can operate and it might help you to walk.' His words were inspirational. I burst into tears of joy.

Within weeks I'd had my operation, then in March, 2001 I was transferred to the Bradley Unit of Woking Community Hospital, where I had intensive physiotherapy.


WHO KNEW?

The world's longest surviving coma patient is Edward O'Bara, 56, from Florida who has been comatose for 39 years


It was there, five years after my initial illness, that I took my painful but thrilling first step with the aid of a walking frame. The staff had arranged for me to do it as Greg and the children walked in.

They watched me put one foot in front of the other. I felt giddy and panic-stricken. That single step felt like running a marathon, and the children watched me, wide-eyed with awe. Then a huge cheer went up and I felt dizzy with happiness, as if I'd won an Olympic race.

And that was the start of the slow journey back to normality. I can still only walk a few steps with a walking stick - and I accept I will always need my wheelchair.

But after a year's intensive speech therapy, I recovered all my speech. I learned by slow degrees, like a small child, building single words into short sentences, then progressing to more complex ones.

When one day AJ came in and told me excitedly he'd won his race at sports day, for the first time I was able to respond with: 'Well done!' I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to say those two simple words.

My friend Kate also bought me a mobile phone and every night I'd ring the children. They'd say: 'Night night Mummy. I love you.' And it meant so much that I could respond with: 'I love you too.'

By degrees, I learned to write again. But my grasp on current affairs was tenuous  -  I have memory lapses even now. I was asked by my psychologist if I knew who the Prime Minister was. When I replied: 'Lionel Blair', he laughed and said: 'Actually it's Tony  -  although Lionel would probably do a better job!'

When the day of my home-coming finally arrived I was overjoyed. AJ, then 12, yelled, 'Mummy' and raced down the ramp they'd put in for my wheelchair.

Georgie, ten, peeped shyly round the door and as Greg wheeled me into the house there were tears of happiness in all our eyes.

Today my life is rich in love and laughter and I revel in my children's achievements. AJ, now 20, is a mechanical engineer and Georgie, 18, is training in childcare.

I enjoy socialising and, with the help of my family or carer, I can go shopping and visit pubs and restaurants. Greg and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next year and we still adore each other.

Although my life is restricted  -  I cannot walk more than a few steps, I need help with personal care and am still prone to splitting headaches  -  I accept its constraints.

For the simple fact is I cherish my little home  -  and I'm just happy being here with my family again. Like Richard Rudd, I had good reason to want to survive.

Kerry is grateful for the help of Cranleigh Lions. www.cranleighlions.org




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