Locked-in syndrome

Learn more about Locked-in syndrome, when you can hear and think but no way of moving or communicating..

One of the most controversial cases that rocked the UK Judicial court is that of Tony Nicklinson, an English business who pleaded with the court his “right to die.” He told the judge he was tired of living an undignified life of being fed and cared for like a baby.

Nicklinson is one of the few men who suffer from Locked-in syndrome, also known as pseudocoma, de-efferented state, ventral pontine syndrome, and cerebromedullar disconnection. Physicians describe it as a rare neurological illness wherein all voluntary muscles of the body are paralyzed, except those that control the movement of the eyes.

This syndrome is usually caused by brain injury (Nicklinson’s case was brought about by stroke), circulatory system illnesses, overdose of medication, and disorders which result in the destruction of myelin sheath that covers nerve cells. Even a snake bite from a common Krait, which is usually found in India, can render one to suffer from locked-in syndrome.

People with locked-in syndrome are conscious and aware of what’s happening around him. However, he cannot speak, move, and react to his environment. Some retain proprioception, or the ability to perceive sensations throughout the body. Because of these symptoms, the people who suffer from this illness experience paralysis and an inability to speak. The only way to communicate with other people is through blinking, just the way Nicklinson communicated his case with the judge.

blue eye

The term of this sickness was coined by physicians Jerome Posner and Fred Plum. According to doctors, there are two types of locked-in syndromes. The most common is that with a paralysis that does not affect the eye muscles. Another is the total locked-in syndrome, wherein even the eye muscles cannot move.

Unfortunately, no cure has been developed for the illness as of yet. Most therapies are designed to help improve the patient’s quality of life. Some tools have also been developed to improve the communication between the patient and his caregiver. Some patients undergo a novice therapy known as “functional neuromuscular stimulation.” This treatment makes use of electrodes that send signals to paralyzed muscles in order to active part or all of it.

While the prognosis of people who suffer from this condition is poor, there is still hope. So far, two people who suffered from this illness have made full recoveries. They are Kerry Pink and Kate Allatt. Even if the future seems bleak for people who suffer from this disorder, the stories of these women goes to show that there’s still hope.