Saturday 22 November 2014

Woman with locked-in syndrome earns her degree

A woman suffering from locked-in syndrome as a result of a stroke has been awarded a 2:2 degree in Ancient History.

Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30

Dawn Faizey-Webster, a sufferer of locked in syndrome pictured at her home
Dawn Faizey-Webster, a sufferer of locked in syndrome pictured at her home.

A woman suffering from locked-in syndrome as a result of a stroke has been awarded a 2:2 degree in Ancient History.

Dawn Faizey Webster suffered a stroke after the birth of her son Alexander when she was 30 years old. The 42-year-old woman from Staffordshire, England, suffers from 'locked-in syndrome' - a condition in which "the patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles...except for the eyes".

Faizey Webster types at a speed of 50 words per hour using a specially designed headrest which allows her to move the cursor backwards and forwards by pressing buttons on each side of the headpiece. To select letters to type, she blinks. This typing speed means that each three-hour exam took her three weeks to complete.

Faizey Webster said she was "so proud" to pass her degree. "I had achieved what I had spent six years striving for."

The former teacher became paralysed two weeks after the birth of her son Alexander. During her pregnancy she had contracted pre-eclampsia, "a disorder of pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure".

Faizey Webster.jpg

Her blood pressure remained high following the birth and she suffered a severe stroke. "No one could hear me shouting that inside my paralysed body my brain was still alive... one day my dad asked me if I could hear him? He asked me to blink if I could. I blinked, and he jumped up in shock," she said.

Her husband left her and Alexander, now 11, and Faizey Webster decided to "use the thing that had not been affected - my brain".

"I felt I needed to prove to myself and to others that I was still me, Dawn."

Faizey Webster's next goal is to complete a masters course in History of Art.

Some 90pc of those who contract 'locked-in' syndrome die within the first four months. In 'exceptional' cases there have been patients who achieve a full recovery, including mother-of-three Kate Allatt from South Yorkshire who now runs Fighting Strokes, dedicated to helping those affected by the condition.

Irish Independent

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