Clodagh Dunlop's inspirational steps to recovery
Clodagh Dunlop's account of how she astonishingly recovered from locked-in syndrome is one of the most inspiring stories that you will ever read. The natural reaction to such a diagnosis is that the condition is a virtual death sentence, but the Co Londonderry woman has amazed everyone by recovering so well that she was able finally to walk out of hospital.
For her the condition which followed a massive stroke must have felt like being buried alive. How terrifying it must have been to be alert yet trapped in a body which was unable to give voice to the thoughts and messages that she wanted to express.
Watching her concerned partner and family at her bedside, she was inwardly screaming with frustration and no doubt wondering if her life would ever improve. It is a remarkable tribute to her determination and willpower that she was eventually able to make contact with her relatives through blinking.
For those of us reading her story the idea of being reduced to communicating by blinking hardly bears thinking about. Yet for her that was a tremendous breakthrough, which gives us some indication of the sheer despair that the condition can instil in those unfortunate enough to suffer it.
As a police officer Clodagh knew the importance of public service delivered in a fitting fashion, so it is a tremendous tribute to the medical and nursing staff who looked after her that she says they taught her a new level of kindness and compassion.
We hear and read many stories about deficiencies in the Health Service - and indeed it is a service under tremendous and growing pressure - but we should never lose sight of the dedication, skill and humanity of those who work in it. The staff invariably meet people at the worst of times, see death on a daily basis yet work tirelessly to improve the lot of all who come under their care.
But Clodagh also had something else on her side - her faith. In today's increasingly secular world, many deride the idea of a higher power, but for others, like Clodagh, faith is a tremendous solace, especially in times of need. And it can be a spur to positive thoughts.
Clodagh still faces difficulties in the future. As she says her walking is ungainly and it will require much hard work to improve her gait and stability. But that should be no obstacle to this determined woman after the steps she has taken already.