Appreciate your loved ones, urges recovering locked-in victim Clodagh Dunlop
A young policewoman who suffered a near-fatal stroke has urged people to take time to appreciate their loved ones in the new year.
Clodagh Dunlop described 2015 as a "rollercoaster" after she was left with locked-in syndrome following the major brainstem stroke last April.
In a moving online message, she told of her pain at not being able to touch her relatives or tell them that she loved them.
She urged people to make time to appreciate those closest to them in the New Year - in case they don't get another chance to do so.
Her partner Adrian, who was by her side the whole way through, was called her "fairy tale prince" and "her voice".
The Magherafelt woman said: "My heart would break as I couldn't reach out to touch my family and Adrian, I couldn't tell them, 'I love you'. All I could physically do was blink my eyelids.
"I couldn't even turn my head. My body was completely paralysed, my mouth unable to move, I couldn't make a sound.
"I yearned to hug them, to be with them.
"Adrian would lift my lifeless hands and hold them to his face, and nurses would hold up both my arms so I could hug my sister."
The 35-year-old referred to herself as being like a "giant toddler" now after she posted a message on her Facebook page about her hopes of further recovery in 2016.
She is now spearheading a personal awareness campaign about locked-in syndrome, after spending months unable to communicate or move her body after doctors removed a blood clot from her brain. Now learning to walk and talk again, she has shared a compilation of photographs showing her highs and lows from 2015.
The photographs show her starting the year off healthy and happy in life and her struggles to recuperate after the stroke and her life after leaving hospital in November.
Adrian, family and nursing staff are featured as they helped and supported every step of the way.
She also recorded a short message of thanks to everyone who was interested in her "journey".
Clodagh urged: "This new year make a point of hugging your loved ones and telling them 'I love you'. 2015 began full of promise for me, I came second on a list for my dream role at work. My biggest concern was who beat me and came first.
"I loved my job. I had a fabulous family, my partner Adrian and I had moved to what we affectionately called our 'forever house'.
Life as I declared to Adrian in March was 'too perfect,' I felt too happy, that something would go wrong.
On April 6 it did. I suffered a brainstem stroke and as a result was 'locked-in'."
She recalled how a big breakthrough came when she was able to move her left arm and apply lip balm to her own lips, a task that her sister and nurses had been doing for her.
While speaking about the worst year of her life, Clodagh also acknowledged the kindness that people have shown to her and her thanks to modern medicine and the medical team who saved her life.