By Dave Andrusko
Earlier today we posted a story about how researchers at Cambridge found ‘hidden brain signatures’ of consciousness in patients said to be in a persistent vegetative state. It is just the latest reminder that often times we don’t know what we don’t know—that is, the interior lives of patients said to be either in a PVS or “minimally conscious” may be much richer than we think we know.
Add to that a terrifying story of awareness but an inability to communicate that come courtesy of the Daily Mail Australia.
In 2010, then 39, Kate Allatt suffered a massive stroke. Doctors put her in a medically-induced coma. When she awoke, however, no one realized she was lucid because she was unable to communicate. All thought she was brain dead or in a persistent vegetative state.
In fact Allatt’s mind was working just fine. The mother of three was suffering from Locked-In Syndrome, “which left her unable to communicate and a prisoner in her own body for two weeks,” according to Lucy Thackray.
Paralyzed, robbed of speech, and unable to breathe on her own, she lay in her bed “listening in horror as medics and relatives discussed her prognosis and terrified that they would decide to turn off life support.”
“They thought I was in a vegetative state. I couldn’t move a muscle. There was no signal I was in there,’ Allatt told Thackray. “’I was on life support and they might have turned it off.”
In that precarious state, “’I couldn’t breathe for myself but I could hear conversations that I didn’t want to hear.”
Her condition was made worse because she unknowing was suffering from hallucinations due to the medications.
Allatt’s story has a happy ending because her friends gradually realized that she was “still there” and because of her own indomitable willpower. As she explained
‘When I saw people I loved came into the ICU ward, and I would cry – no noise, just tears.
‘They realized it wasn’t an involuntary response, but actually still me inside.’
Amazingly, eight months later, she was able to speak.
“The doctors kept me alive and thank God they did, I’m very grateful,” she said.
Allatt, the author of three books, now acts as a national advocate for anyone affected by stroke, in the process becoming a respected lay stroke recovery expert.
On her webpage she writes, “I am heavily involved in developing an unique app to help people both physically and emotionally who are affected by acute Locked In Syndrome either from stroke or acquired brain injury.”