Surviving Locked-in Syndrome

On May 20, 2009, minutes after his wife had left for work, Richard Marsh realized he was having a stroke. What he didn’t realize was the stroke was only the beginning.

Unable To Move At All

When paramedics arrived at his house, Marsh was having difficulty speaking and maintaining his balance. By the time he got to the hospital, he could already feel paralysis creeping into his legs. He woke up in intensive care, hooked to a breathing machine and with “tubes all over.”

Although Marsh could feel and understand everything when he woke up, he couldn’t move a muscle. “The only thing I could do was blink, and that was just barely,” he says.

Locked Inside Himself

Marsh was experiencing Locked-In Syndrome, a rare condition that affects roughly one percent of all people who have a stroke, leaving them unable to move any muscles except their eyelids. There is no treatment or cure, and few ever recover any significant function. In most cases, Locked-In Syndrome is fatal—roughly 90 percent die within four months.

While he was trapped inside his uncooperative body, Marsh was completely aware of what was going on. “Your mind works perfectly,” he says. “Your body doesn’t.”


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