In May 2009 retired cop Richard Marsh suffered a severe stroke that submerged him in the terrifying world of locked-in syndrome. His brain was still working but he couldn’t move a muscle. Try as he might, he had no way of communicating with the outside world. Locked In details his race against time. First, to prove his existence to the medical team and then to beat the odds of surviving. This is a truly inspirational tale of a miraculous escape.
Today we are marking the publication of Richard Marsh’s extraordinary story in Locked In by interviewing the man himself.
Q: During your experience what gave you the strength to carry on?
A: Three things stand out as the most important factors in my recovery. They were family, hope and determination. Of course family is the most important. My wife, Lili, or one of my daughters were with me every day during the time I was hospitalised. They couldn’t be there at night but I knew they would be back in the morning. Having family there made me feel safe. I knew if I had a need they would see that it was taken care of.
Hope was also very important. Without hope I don’t think recovery would have been possible. Hope keeps you moving forward and allows you to have determination. Determination is necessary to achieve your goals. I set small goals for myself every day with the big goal of full recovery always on my mind.
Q: After experiencing locked-in syndrome what do you most appreciate about your life?
A: Since my stroke I most appreciate my family and friends. I am so very grateful for all they did. Looking back on the experience I can see just how much they all sacrificed to be with me. It was an hour drive for Lili and my friends to come see me and an hour and a half for my daughters. I also found the old saying, ‘in times like these you find out who your real friends are’ is very true.
Q: Has your experience spurred you on to try new things or live your life differently?
A: I live my life much as I did before my stroke. Of course I’ve had to make a few adjustments. I had to quit working. That was a tough decision to make but the last thing I would want to happen would be to have another stroke in front of my pupils. Overall, life is good and I enjoy every minute of it.
Q: What advice would you give to the friends and family of someone who has been affected by locked-in syndrome?
A: Remember that the locked-in person still has their normal mental abilities. They can hear and understand what is being said around them. One thing that my doctors and family did was to ask for my input and opinions on my care. Even though I couldn’t speak, I could spell out the answers to them. This simple act allowed me to retain some of my dignity. Love and support the locked-in patient and never give up hope.