Locked-in syndrome man learns to walk again
- 26 August 2010
- From the section Dorset
A Sussex man facing a lifetime of paralysis has defied medical experts and learnt to walk again.
Graham Miles, from Brighton, was diagnosed with "locked-in syndrome" after suffering a stroke in 1993.
He was fully conscious but could not move any part of his body apart from blinking his eyes.
Most people never recover but Daniel Cleal, a Dorset movement specialist, helped Mr Miles walk again through corrective exercise and movement.
'You were dying'
Mr Miles has been told he is one of very few cases in the world where somebody with locked-in syndrome has recovered substantially to be able to walk again.
Many people die within the first few months.
"Initially, even thinking was exhausting in the first few days," Mr Miles said.
"Some months afterwards when I could talk with a few words I asked a nurse why they wouldn't attend to me.
"She said: 'We were told not to because you were dying'."
Mr Miles said he was determined to not to spend the rest of his life in bed and began to concentrate on trying to move a part of his body.
"I kept on doing it, day in, day out, week in, week out, and one day it moved in my brain. I looked down and nothing moved.
"But I kept on doing it and one day it flickered."
Since 1993 his recovery has been long and slow but in 2007 he met Mr Cleal who took him on "as a project" and started working with him during weekly sessions for free.
Today Graham is able to walk short distances without using his sticks.
Mr Miles said: "Daniel seems to have a particular skill by identifying a muscle weakness or a body alignment and looking over the total picture.
"When I walk away after the session I can feel the muscles that have been worked and what they're doing to improve my posture."
Mr Cleal, who works from Brighton, said his patient's skills were "exceptional".
"When I heard about his situation I believed more could still be done.
"Other therapists had said recovery was going to be limited in the future, but because he did regain motor function I believed those neuro-pathways could be enhanced and worked on."
Locked in syndrome is typically caused by a lesion in the pons, effectively the part of the brain stem that acts as a bridge between brain and body. The most common cause is a stroke.
Public awareness of locked-in syndrome today is largely a result of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a book by French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, later turned into a film.