Belfast Telegraph

'Locked-in' stroke survivor Clodagh walks landmark mile without any aid

By Lisa Smyth

Inspirational stroke survivor Clodagh Dunlop has continued her miraculous recovery by walking a mile completely unaided.

Clodagh, who celebrated her 39th birthday at the start of the month, completed the physical challenge at the Stroke Association's annual Step Out For Stroke event in Antrim yesterday.

It is the longest distance she has walked without her walking aid since she suffered a devastating brain stem stroke in April 2015 that left her with locked-in syndrome.

"It was definitely a challenge and I didn't know whether I was going to make it as I was starting to get really tired at the end," she said.

"I've only ever walked without my stick around the house, this was the first time I was outside and walking without my aid, so to actually manage the full mile shows me how much stronger I'm getting."

Clodagh was an active police officer when she was hit by the massive stroke three years ago.

In the days that followed, medics warned her family that she could die.

When she did regain consciousness, she was unable to move or speak and communicated with those around her by blinking.

There is no treatment or cure for locked in syndrome, and it is extremely rare for patients to recover any significant motor functions.

However, Clodagh - who suffers weakness on her right side - fulfilled her dream of walking out of hospital six months after the stroke and even returned to her job in October 2016.

She continued: "Going back to work has definitely kept me sane. I'm now working as a detective in CID and I love it.

"It's funny because, before I had the stroke and I was in response policing, CID isn't something I ever thought of doing because I didn't think I would be able to make the same contribution to the community. That's probably because I didn't fully understand what the role entails.

"I'm so lucky because my colleagues don't wrap me in cotton wool. I do interviews, I've made arrests, I'm still able to give people the same level of service they expect.

"Just last week, a lady gave me a hug and thanked me for my help and it meant so much to me because I had worked with her for a while and never once had the issue of my stroke come up. I knew I had made a difference using my brain and doing the job I love."

Clodagh also revealed she has finished writing a book that details the months she spent in hospital when she was unable to even tell those around about her basic needs, such as being hungry or too hot, and is hoping it will be published this year.

Clodagh was joined by a host of other stroke survivors at the event at Antrim Castle Gardens.

Rebecca Morrow (18) finished the walk less than a year after suffering a mini-stroke and two further strokes.

Rebecca, a sixth year pupil at Carrickfergus Grammar School, fell ill while working in a shop in Belfast last July.

She was rushed to ambulance to the Royal Victoria Hospital and it later transpired the strokes had been caused by a hole in her heart.

"I had surgery in January and now I know it can't happen again so I don't have that hanging over me," she said. "I'm now looking forward to going to university and being Rebecca again, not the girl who had the stroke."

The event was organised by Ian Smyth, who has been largely confined to a wheelchair since suffering a massive stroke six years ago after which he spent three days in a coma.

However, at yesterday's event the 53-year-old from Bangor, Co Down, took an amazing 140 steps as part of efforts to raise awareness of life after stroke, and the work of the Stroke Association.

To donate to Rebecca's fundraising efforts after completing yesterday's challenge, log on to /rebecca-morrow1

Belfast Telegraph

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