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Now I can appreciate the gift of life, says Clodagh Dunlop who defied doctors after massive stroke

By Adrian Rutherford

A police officer left with locked-in syndrome after suffering a massive stroke says it has made her appreciate the great gift of life.

Clodagh Dunlop was unable to move and speak after falling ill last April.

A year on, she has made remarkable progress.

And yesterday, on her 36th birthday, the Magherafelt woman urged people to appreciate the value of life.

"Today is my birthday. I now realise that to be able to grow old is a gift not everyone has," she wrote on her Facebook page.

"To be able to grow older and watch those you love grow older is precious.

"Last year on my birthday I observed as people wished me happy birthday and brought me gifts. I couldn't make a sound, only move my eyelids and I could turn my head slightly.

"I couldn't open cards or presents, it made me sad.

"Now this year I realise, cards and gifts don't matter.

"The greatest gift is life itself and to be a part of it."

Clodagh also referred to the continued love and support of her family, including her partner Adrian.

"To be able to share birthdays with those we love is priceless," she added.

"I can't wait to spend the day with Adrian and my family.

"The only gift I want is life, to grow old and share many more birthdays together."

Clodagh previously spoke of how she became a "prisoner in her own body" after last year's stroke.

She could only communicate by blinking, but her mind remained completely alert.

It was on her birthday last May that she started to show signs of improvement.

Locked-in syndrome affects particular parts of the brain and Clodagh has had to relearn basic bodily functions like breathing and swallowing.

But her recovery has astonished her family, medics and colleagues in the PSNI.

Last November she walked out of Musgrave Park Hospital to finally go home.

Clodagh's long-term goal is to run four miles as she used to do every day.

Last Christmas, Clodagh described 2015 as a "roller coaster" after she was left paralysed following the major brainstem stroke last April.

At the time, 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".

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. 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."

Clodagh has been spearheading a personal awareness campaign about locked-in syndrome, after amazing her friends and family with her remarkable recovery.

Belfast Telegraph

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