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How Clodagh is winning fight against locked-in sydrome after her stroke

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 07/10/2015

Clodagh Dunlop and Adrian.
Clodagh Dunlop and Adrian.
Police officer Clodagh Dunlop and partner Adrian before she suffered a massive stroke
Clodagh Dunlop recovering in hospital after developing ‘locked-in’ syndrome
On the beat: young police officer Clodagh Dunlop before her stroke

The partner of an inspirational woman recovering from locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke has spoken of the moment he was told she might not survive.

Adrian Simpson, the boyfriend of Clodagh Dunlop, said that although everything changed dramatically for the couple six months ago, it does not have to be a "lesser life".

Clodagh (36) from Magherafelt in Co Londonderry has described her life changing "in the blink of an eye".

Unable to communicate, she remained in the locked-in state for months fighting for her life while family, friends and loved ones worried if her condition would ever change.

But Adrian has described how, through hard work over the last few months, he has watched Clodagh "breaking the rules of locked-in".

Back in May it took five people to help Clodagh, an in-patient at Musgrave Park Hospital, to sit.

Now she has regained her speech, can sit on her own and is working to master the art of standing in a standing frame.

But the award-winning police officer, who at one point could only communicate through blinking, is also keen to highlight that stroke can affect people at any age - even babies.

One in five people in Northern Ireland will be affected this year by a stroke and the effects on the individual and the wider family can be devastating.

Adrian explained he was in Scotland when he first got the call from Clodagh's sister that she had been taken into hospital.

But Clodagh, his partner for three years, then rang him to tell him not to worry.

Then just hours later he got another call to say her condition had deteriorated.

"I tried not to have a knee-jerk reaction but then her sister rang me back to say things were taking a turn for the worse.

"The first boat back was 4am. It was a long journey.

He added: "When I arrived at the hospital I knew it was serious.

"They discovered she had a clot and suffered a brain stem stroke.

"We didn't know if she would survive that and if she did how well she was going to be or in what capacity.

"There was no precursor to this, no indication that this was going to happen. I was completely blind-sided. When I left home I had a 35-year-old extremely fit and active partner.

"I was then told she had a brain stem stroke and we didn't know if she was going to survive."

He described the last half a year as "an unexpected journey".

Clodagh has charted her amazing recovery on her Facebook page and the couple have been inundated with messages of support on her daily progress and determination.

"I think you get the strength from different places," Adrian said. "Clodagh would have firm beliefs that God only gives you what your shoulders can carry.

"You do come across people in your everyday life who are unfortunate and we are very much aware that unfortunate things do happen to people so you tend not to have the 'why did this happen to me' scenario.

"You just get on with it and say, 'ok, this has happened and the sooner I can accept that this has happened, the sooner I can sort it out and make things better'."

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