Locked In Man Mark Ellis, 22, Walks And Talks Again After Copying Baby Daughter
Mark Ellis developed locked-in syndrome – a condition where a patient’s entire body is paralysed but their mind remains active – after suffering a stroke at the age of 22.
The stroke happened just weeks after Mr Ellis’s wife Amy, 32, had given birth to their daughter Lily-Rose, and left him unable to communicate other than by rolling his eyes.
But despite being put into an induced coma and given a slim chance of survival, the patient astounded doctors by swiftly regaining the ability to talk, move and walk after copying his daughter.
Eight months after his stroke Mr Ellis was able to leave hospital and he is now able to talk and even walk with the help of a frame.
Mrs Ellis said: “There wasn’t much time between him and Lola-Rose both taking their first steps – I think Mark took his first steps a week or two after Lola.
“They use toys, books, games and the iPad together to learn how to do things and communicate.
“Doctors didn’t expect him to survive but his youth and mental strength have helped him pull through.”
Mr Ellis, from Clay Cross, Derbyshire, had begun to complain of severe migraines in the days leading up to his stroke but after attending the Chesterfield Royal Hospital A&E department he was sent home with paracetamol.
His wife later called a doctor and Mr Ellis was sent for an MRI scan at Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital, which showed he had suffered a stroke two days previously.
Mrs Ellis said: “He’s young and healthy, [has] never smoked, taken drugs or drunk excessively so it was hard to understand why and how this happened.
“The doctors didn’t expect him to survive. They thought that after his stroke, his heart was going to give up.
“I was asked to sign a consent form to say doctors wouldn’t resuscitate him if this happened.”
A week after being put into a coma Mr Ellis came around, but was only able to communicate with his family by rolling his eyes up for “yes” and down for “no”.
Doctors found he had suffered a blood clot in his brainstem which they described as the worst they had seen in such a young man, and said it was likely he would never be able to walk and talk again.
But after months of intense physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions, Mr Ellis regained the ability to sit up and feed himself.
Medical staff suggested that if he attempted to copy his daughter – who had since begun babbling and making basic sounds – it may help him learn to speak again.
He soon began to make the same sounds, and later progressed to forming meaningful words. By March 2011 he was able to leave hospital using a walking frame.
Mrs Ellis said reading books with his daughter had helped her husband’s speech and that playing games and using her toys had improved his co-ordination.
She said: “I was told not to expect anything from Mark after his stroke so I’m overwhelmed by how well he’s done. Anything and everything he does now is just amazing.”
Dr Srivas Chennu, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, said: “The fact he has recovered to the extend he can walk home and has recovered his speech is quite remarkable. Some patients recover some movement but would normally still be wheelchair-bound and require assistance when eating, so this is a rare case.”
There is no proven therapy for locked-in patients but some anecdotal evidence does suggest that emotive stimuli, like videos of a patient walking and talking before their injury, can activate areas of the brain linked to movement, Dr Chennu added.
He said: “In this case it seems like – if you believe his wife’s interpretation – the salient influence of his daughter’s recent birth and growing up was strong enough to help him recover.”
Despite her husband’s astonishing recovery, Mrs Ellis added that she supported the family of Tony Nicklinson, who took his fight for the right to die to court last week after seven years of suffering from locked-in syndrome.
She said: “When doctors asked me to sign the form to not resuscitate Mark, I didn’t sign it but I know I would have done.
“We’ve been so lucky that Mark’s pulled through but I can’t imagine what it must be like for him to be of able mind but locked in for seven years.”
Sue Potter, matron for stroke services at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, said: “When Mark came to us, he had been diagnosed with locked-in syndrome which meant he could communicate by blinking, but he couldn’t do anything else.
“We have 400 – 500 people who have had a stroke each year, but never had anyone as young with his condition. His determination and having a young baby have surely contributed to his recovery.”