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Therapist's pride as Clodagh takes her first steps after suffering a near-fatal stroke

By Victoria O'Hara

Inspirational Clodagh Dunlop's "drive" helped her reach her goal of walking again and make a remarkable recovery, her occupational therapist has said.

Adele Woods was part of the expert team at Musgrave Park Hospital who worked with the 35-year-old over the months of intensive treatment she received after suffering a near-fatal stroke. It left the former police officer from Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, with locked-in syndrome which left her paralysed and unable to talk. The only way she could communicate was through blinking. But through determination and the huge support and medical expertise from the team at Musgrave she defied the odds and made an amazing recovery.

In April doctors discovered she had a clot and suffered a brain stem stroke, and her family were told to prepare for the worst for Clodagh, who had won a community policing award in 2012. But on Thursday, as reported in the Belfast Telegraph, she achieved the milestone of walking out of hospital - a goal that she had set herself during the tough rehabilitation.

Ms Woods said: "She consistently overachieved her goals.

"She has amazed everybody with her progress and more so her personality - she was almost in competition with herself.

"I hadn't seen her walking with the physio until yesterday, so it was a bit of a moment for me. I was very proud of her and I was very impressed again she exceeded her expectations."

Ms Woods, who has worked at the hospital for 11 years, explained that in the brain injury unit there are both speech and occupational therapists as well as specialist nurses who work closely together.

"Patients like Clodagh when they first come in are very significantly affected and it takes that close working and setting goals and progressing that on - it is quite intensive," she said.

"It was particularly great when we were trying to promote independence. She was very driven to do that and be independent. She was open to teaching her new techniques and equipment to use. Simple things like using the switch to turn on the tv - she was very open to that."

Ms Woods added:"She was driven and that came through from the very start. It was frustrating for her not to be able to communicate.

"When we took her out for lunch and a coffee on the Lisburn Road for the first time it was a hugely emotional moment for her. And she said 'I'm going to come back and do this in a normal way'."

Clodagh spoke of how she is now looking forward to living her life to the fullest - but praised the medical team for their dedication.

"I was a police officer and I would have said I had learned to be kind and patient and compassionate but the nurses here have taught me a new level of being kind, being compassionate," she said.

Ms Woods added: "We do get emotional saying goodbye. You are doing personal tasks with them and you learn about their hopes and dreams and their desires. You can get to know their whole life. You are delighted for them to move on to the next stage."

She said that stroke can affect people of any age - as Clodagh's case highlights.

"We see young, fit people all the time having strokes. It can happen. For staff working here it definitely keeps life in perspective. It could happen to anybody. The patient always wants a prediction and every patient is different and every patient with a brain injury has different outcomes. We are there to help them all."

Belfast Telegraph

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