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Living Well: Locked In Syndrome

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Arizona -

A rare syndrome left an Arizona man trapped in his own body.

He suffered what many might consider their worst nightmare: paralyzed but fully conscious of the world around him, unable to communicate.

Michael Dills has always had a positive attitude, a tool that got him through the darkest scare of his life. In 2012, Michael suffered a stroke.

"I can hear the doctor at my door talking to my family. She's telling them there's no hope. I couldn't move my head. I couldn't move my head side to side." Michael said.

But Michael did feel the needle pokes, he just was unable to tell anyone.

Michael says, "Basically you're locked in your own body. You can't do anything. You can't move. You can only move your eyes vertically. You can't move them side to side."

Michael had suffered what is called locked in syndrome, he was aware of his surroundings but was physically unable to react. He could even hear discussions about whether to pull the plug.

For a couple of weeks, Michael was trapped in his own body, until his daughter Cheyenne, a pre-med student at GCU noticed him blinking.

He blinked the phrase: "no hope." Michael spent the next few months using his mind to retrain his body. 

He imagined typing with his paralyzed fingers "now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." Performing the mental exercise over and over for days, until, finally, his fingers cooperated.

Nearly six months after the stroke he went home.

And decided to take control of his rehab, building himself a wheelchair ramp. Then a balance board. He installed these bars to help him re-learn balance.

Michael has always been a problem solver, what needs to be fixed, he will rebuild.  First with the mind, then body. Then soul.

Locked-in syndrome is believed to be caused by bleeding in the brain stem. The majority of patients never regain full functionality. 

Doctors say the fact that Michael can walk and talk is remarkable.

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