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Magherafelt woman who battled locked-in syndrome gives New Year's message: Hug your loved ones and tell them you love them

Published 28/12/2015

Clodagh Dunlop leaves hospital on her own two feet, with a helping hand from her partner Adrian Simpson
Clodagh Dunlop leaves hospital on her own two feet, with a helping hand from her partner Adrian Simpson
Clodagh's sheds tears of joy as the occasion overwhelms her
Clodagh gets a kiss from her partner Adrian
Clodagh's defiant message from her hospital bed
On the beat: young police officer Clodagh Dunlop before her stroke
Together: Clodagh Dunlop and partner Adrian.
Police officer Clodagh Dunlop and partner Adrian before she suffered a massive stroke

The inspirational woman who suffered a near-fatal stroke and battled locked-in syndrome, has shared a heart-warming New Year's message: hug your loved ones and tell them you love them.

Magherafelt woman Clodagh Dunlop suffered a brainstem stroke in April and her family were told to prepare for the worst.

The police officer was left with locked-in syndrome.

Paralysed and unable to talk, she was only able to communicate through blinking.

But through determination and the help of her family and an expert team at Musgrave Park Hospital, Clodagh was able to take her first tentative steps out of hospital in November.

Clodagh, who won a community award for her policing in 2012 shared her experiences over the past year in a Facebook post.

"This new year make a point of hugging your loved ones and telling them 'I love you'," she began.

She wrote of how 2015 began full of promise and how her only concern was who had beat her to first place on a list for her dream job.

Clodagh and partner Adrian moved into their "forever house", but that she felt life was "too perfect" and of how she was so happy, she feared something would go wrong.

And in April she suffered a stroke.

"It was the start of a long and difficult journey," she 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. 

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 2nd on a list for my dream job role at work. My biggest concern, who beat me and came 1st. 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 6th April it did, I suffered a brainstem stroke and as a result was 'locked in'. It was the start of a long and difficult journey. 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 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. I yearned for my past life, a life that I loved. Adrian and I would dance at nights in the kitchen like eedgits, I wondered would I ever be able to reach out and take his hand to dance once more. Spelling out on a spell board asking nurses to wash my hair, asking my sister to shave my legs and brush my teeth. My sister became my daily beautician, Adrian became more than just my partner, he was my voice, no problem ever to big, my fairytale prince. My parents were heartbroken but I couldn't speak, I couldn't reassure them 'I'm going to be OK'. I had months of being spoon fed, I loved when my left arm had power return to it. With a shaky finger I could apply lip balm, it took all I had to hold my arm up to brush my teeth, to be able to push the nurse call button for help was momentous, no longer did I have to hit a big red button placed beside my head to call nurses. I cried every weekend for the first month when I saw the 30 mph speed limits for Magherafelt, the joy of seeing my town, where I was from. My sister would look in disbelief and say 'please tell me you're not crying at seeing Magherafelt?' I was, it is home, people would come up to me and wish me well, I had never before realised how kind people where. I have had a roller coaster of a year, Adrian, my sister, parents, bestfriend, nursing staff, therapists, and everyone who has written, sent me messages, liked my posts have got me to this point in my journey. I'm amazed by modern medicine and the team of people who removed the clot from my brain stem, they saved my life. I aim to get on my feet, I continue to have physiotherapy and Adrian helps me practice to walk, I'm like a giant toddler. For everyone reading this I wish you health and happiness in 2016, now go hug your loved ones and tell them that you love them. Like and share my journey x #beatinglockedin

Posted by Clodagh Dunlop #beatinglockedin on Sunday, 27 December 2015

"My body completely paralysed, my mouth unable to move, I couldn't make a sound. 

"I yearned to hug them, to be with them."

Clodagh talked of the unwavering support of her loved ones and her doctors; of how her nurses cared for her; of how her sister became her daily beautician and of how Adrian became more than just a partner.

"He was my voice, no problem ever to big, my fairytale prince," she said.

"My parents were heartbroken but I couldn't speak, I couldn't reassure them 'I'm going to be OK'."

Clodagh talked about how she loved it when her left arm moved and she was able to apply lip balm and of how she cried as she spotted the speed signs on her return to Magheraflet at the weekends as her rehabilitation progressed.

Clodagh said: "I'm amazed by modern medicine and the team of people who removed the clot from my brain stem, they saved my life. 

"This new year make a point of hugging your loved ones and telling them 'I love you'."

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