Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 15:29 UK

Stroke victim uses chart to speak

Michelle Wheatley with her two children, in hospital
Michelle Wheatley has been in hospital for a year

A woman who is "locked in" her paralysed body after a massive stroke has developed a way of communicating with her family.

Michelle Wheatley, 26, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, was bathing her baby when she suffered the seizure.

She has the rare Locked-in Syndrome and her body is completely paralysed, but she can still see, hear and think.

Miss Wheatley has a colour-coded alphabet chart to talk to partner Rick Blease and Ryan, four, and Holly, one.

The system has been developed in Stepping Hill Hospital, where Michelle has been staying since the stroke.

Cognitive function

Her family hopes she will eventually be able to return to a family home, and that the move may help her progress.

Miss Wheatley uses the alphabet system to stay involved in her children's lives, and even chooses their clothes from the internet.

Locked-in Syndrome is usually caused by a stroke or brain haemorrhage and damages the lower part of the brain, meaning patients still have cognitive function.

Michelle Wheatley with her children before the stroke
Ms Wheatley helps pick out clothes for her children on the internet

One of the most well-known cases was that of French journalist Jean-Dominque Bauby, who wrote his memoir The Diving Bell and The Butterfly in 1997 when he suffered Locked-In Syndrome after a stroke.

It was adapted into a film in 2008.

Michelle's father Frank said: "Anger comes in and you think, why? Why should someone so young with two young children be struck down like this?

"Michelle should have died when she was in intensive care, but she has pulled though.

"Rick obviously was shattered, emotionally and mentally. The children have responded really well to the chaos in their lives and all the disruption."

The chart means Ms Wheatley can move her head or eyes slightly up or down to indicate yes and no when letters are pointed out.

"She has not given up," Mr Wheatley said.

Print Sponsor

Woman locked in mind wins damages
10 Jun 03 |  England


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific