Belfast Telegraph

I’ve been cycling and now I aim to run again, says stroke survivor Clodagh after top UK award

By Lisa Smyth

Stroke survivor Clodagh Dunlop has told of her determination to run again as she won a UK-wide award for the remarkable courage she showed in her recovery.

The 38-year-old from Magherafelt suffered a brain stem stroke in April 2015 that left her with locked-in syndrome.

Unable to speak, swallow or move, Clodagh communicated with medical staff, family and friends by blinking.

Yet, on the first anniversary of her stroke, Clodagh undertook a nerve-racking parachute jump, is now back behind the wheel, and has returned to work.

On Wednesday night Clodagh attended a glittering awards ceremony in London where she was presented with a Life After Stroke Adult Courage Award by the Stroke Association.

In the days following her seizure doctors feared Clodagh could die, but her recovery has been remarkable.

She said: "My ultimate dream would be to be able to run again and I'm going to keep working for that.

"I've been doing really well with my walking, everything is getting stronger, although I am not as fast as I used to be, but I really want to get strong enough to run again."

Clodagh added: "I got an adapted bike and have been out cycling 18 to 20 miles as often as the weather allows me. The weekend before the ceremony I was able to get out on my first solo cycle and it was incredible to feel the wind on my face again.

"I managed about 10 miles, it was a glorious day and I was blissfully happy for the whole cycle.

"I had this huge smile on my face the whole time, if anyone drove past me I'm sure I looked a little insane as I had this massive grin plastered on my face."

Clodagh was an extremely active police officer when she was struck by her illness in April 2015.

Despite being told she would need to use a wheelchair, she fulfilled her dream of walking out of the hospital just six months later.

A year later she was driving again and returned to her job in the PSNI.

"I found it difficult at first as I was behind a desk, and it was hard to believe I was making any contribution to society," she said.

"However, I have been seconded to a department where I work to locate people who are wanted.

"I have come to realise that it is possible to be happy doing a desk job, that it can be rewarding and interesting.

"Sometimes I do wonder why it happened, but I have come to accept that bad things happen.

"Everyone is on a journey through life and you don't know what's going to happen, and the stroke has made me appreciate every day of my life and brought me a lot closer to family and friends."

Clodagh was presented with her award at the Dorchester Hotel by actors James Norton and Victoria Yeates, and she was particularly excited at coming face-to-face with some household names.

"I'm from Magherafelt so you don't normally get to meet famous people, so that was pretty exciting," she explained.

"Apparently I was nominated by about seven different people I have met throughout my journey since the stroke and then the winner was judged by the likes of Karren Brady and Chris Tarrant.

"It was so humbling to be nominated, let alone win the award, because I'm very aware of the difficulties that everyone who has had a stroke goes through. I don't think I am anything special, really."

Belfast Telegraph

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