real life

'Locked-in syndrome': Suddenly unable to speak, Mia became a prisoner in her own body.

Doctors told Mia Adams’ family to brace themselves for the worst. Since collapsing at home in the north-east England town of Wirral, the 21-year-old’s condition had been critical and it seemed unlikely she’d make it through the night, according to The Mirror.

But as Arrowe Park Hospital staff began preparations to remove her from life support, as her parents and siblings steeled themselves to say goodbye, Mia opened her eyes.

Rather than suffering a brain haemorrhage, as doctors had suspected, the cause of Mia’s collapse was revealed to be massive stroke that left her paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak. Her hearing, her sight and her mind, though, were all functioning as normal.

Mia, who seemed perfectly fit and healthy just hours earlier, was now suffering from a rare neurological condition referred to as ‘locked-in syndrome’. She had essentially become a prisoner in her own body.

The first months after Mia’s stroke were devastating for her and her family. The once “bubbly” woman could only communicate with her parents via eye movements (up for ‘yes’, down for ‘no’), and was often left in tears from frustration at the loss of her independence.


To express herself during that period, Mia began writing poems and short stories using a spelling chart and the help of her relatives.

Mia continues to travel, with the help of her sister. Image: Facebook.

Now 29, Mia has written an entire book about her story, one that took her a year to tell. With the assistance of carers, she used a specialised computer which tracks her eye movements across a key pad and allows her to spell out words. Titled 'In the Blink of an Eye', the memoir provides readers the chance - in Mia's words - "to get inside a stroke victim's head".


According to The Independent, she writes, “I must have woken on the morning of November 16 2009, totally oblivious as to what was going to happen because I'd been to work, as usual, nothing different, followed by the gym where I did my normal workout.

“I went straight in to tell my mum how badly I’d done (at the gym) and she replied ‘There’s always tomorrow’... How ironic."

LISTEN: Dr Ginni Mansberg shares the common things women just don't know about their bodies (post continues after audio...)

Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers, claiming more lives each year than breast cancer. Approximately 56,000 cases occur annually, which equates to one every nine minutes.

Of those who survive, 65 per cent suffer a disability that impedes their ability to independently carry out daily living activities. While no current data is available to suggest what proportion experience locked-in syndrome, most estimates put the figure below one per cent.

With treatment and occupational therapy, Mia has regained the ability to sit unaided, and last year completed a criminal justice course at Wirral Metropolitan College.

Speaking to local newspaper, The Liverpool Echo, Mia's mother, Carol, said, “When these things happen you can either sink or swim, but Mia is so determined and is so stubborn that she just gets on with it."