A man has become one of only 15 people in the world to recover from locked-in syndrome.
Shaun Wilde, 44, was in a vegetative state for three months and could only communicate with family and doctors by blinking at a letter board.
He was unable to eat, drink or talk, but was still breathing and conscious as he was trapped in his frozen body after a blood clot in his brain stem caused a severe stroke.
Locked-in syndrome affects around one per cent of stroke victims and around 90 per cent of sufferers die within four months.
But now, as one of only 15 people in the world to have recovered from the syndrome, Shaun can walk and talk – and has even returned to work.
He goes to the gym three mornings a week, has physio at home and has acupuncture to boost his energy.
Shaun, of Ballabeg in the Isle of Man, said: “I sometimes get out of breath when I talk for too long, but I do it.
“I use a walking stick when I’m out and about, but I walk around the house and work unaided.
“I know I’m making progress. I appreciate things that people take for granted – walking, talking, the basic things you only notice when you can’t.
“Psychologically you can be affected more than you realise.
“When it happened I was probably in a state of shock, it’s bound to affect you.”
Shaun said that he is “concerned” that Coronavirus measures such as self-isolation could see him locked in again.
However, measures on the Isle of Man are not as drastic as on the mainland yet as there are no confirmed cases of the deadly disease and nobody has been told to isolate.
Shaun added: “I am surprised it has taken so long to close the schools, but I think the measures in place are appropriate.
“Anybody coming on the Isle of Man has to be quarantined for a fortnight and we have not had any confirmed cases yet.
“Of course it is something I am concerned about but I believe, maybe naively, that I will be ok.
“I have not been told to work from home yet or self-isolate and if I did, then I will deal with it if it happens.”
Shaun’s life was turned upside down when he suffered a stroke caused by a blood clot in his brain stem aged just 40 on August 23, 2015.
He said he woke up that morning feeling sick and light headed and went for a walk to clear his head, oblivious of how serious his symptoms were.
He went to his mum’s house to watch football on the television, but when his condition worsened, she called an ambulance.
Shaun added: “I didn’t think for one minute it was the beginning of a stroke.
“It’s a bit surreal. You hear and read about it, but don’t think it will happen to you.
“I was in a dream-like state, I guess it was two weeks before I came round.”
As he became trapped in his own body, Shaun communicated through blinking and began to use a letter board, looking at letters on a board and spelling out sentences.
He added: “It was frustrating. You take it for granted, asking for things saying things, taking part in conversation.”
In December, he was transferred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool, a specialist neurology hospital.
Shaun added: “I started off not being able to speak, then I started moving my toes and legs slightly.
“It wasn’t to a great degree but enough for them to think I was showing signs of development.
“It wasn’t great development, but it showed some progress was being made.”
His days were filled with a schedule of rehabilitation involving physio, occupational and speech therapy.
His weight dropped to eight stone, from 11 stone before his stroke, as he was fed by a tube up his nose for eight weeks then a peg tube into his stomach.
But incredibly, he began to make progress.
Shaun added: “I started to put two or three words together and I built on that.
“Slowly but surely I started to be able to make sentences and speak a bit faster.
“I had to learn to speak again, pretty much the same way an infant would have to learn to speak.”
Shaun underwent speech therapy for an hour each day Monday to Friday during his stay at the centre.
He also began to move again, much to the delight of his mum Caroline, who was there to support him throughout his ordeal.
He added: “It took a lot of hard work as there was never anything wrong with me physically, but the messages were not getting from my brain to my limbs.
“In the first few months, I did wonder ‘is this going to get any better? Is it going to improve?’
“It’s been four and half long years, but I am determined to continue my recovery.
“”There is no expectancy for somebody to recover from something like this.
“If it is going to happen I just want it to happen, I don’t care how long it takes.
“My mum was at the hospital with me every day while I was on the Isle of Man and she would come across every couple of weeks to Liverpool.
“It was great having a friendly face to look at, it gave me a real boost to see her.”
He was finally discharged and returned home in June 2016 – 10 months after he suffered his stroke.
Amazingly, he returned to work as a company administrator at accountancy firm Crowe Morgan in October 2016.
He now works two and a half days a week and continues his road to recovery.
He added: “I used to do yoga, football and cycling. That level of physical fitness helps considerably with rehabilitation.
“I wake up and think I’m glad I can move.”