A lot can happen in the blink of an eye…
Dawn Faizey Webster is all too aware of this. Ms Faizey Webster, who suffers from locked-in syndrome, has completed a university degree – by blinking.
What caused her to develop this unusual means of communication?
In 2003, Ms Faizey Webster, now 42, was diagnosed with potentially fatal pre-eclampsia when she was 23 weeks’ pregnant. Her son Alexander, who is now 11, had to be delivered by emergency caesarean and weighed just 1lb 8oz when he was born. Days later Ms Faizey Webster suffered a stroke that left her paralysed.
That must have been terrifying…
“My mind screamed that my brain was fine. But as I couldn’t speak, no one could hear me shouting that inside my paralysed body my brain was still alive,” the former teacher recalled. “One day my dad asked me if I could hear him; he asked me to blink if I could. I blinked, and he jumped up in shock.”
How did this lead to a degree?
The new mother was equipped with a computer that allowed her to communicate by blinking and making tiny head movements. After her husband left her, Ms Faizey Webster refused to let her condition beat her. “When I first had my stroke, I realised I would not be able to do anything physical,” she said. “I then decided to use the thing that had not been affected – my brain. I felt I needed to prove to myself and to others that I was still me, Dawn.” The keen historian, who lives in Rugeley, Staffordshire, embarked on her degree in 2008. Working for three hours a day, her fastest writing pace of 50 words per hour meant each three hour exam took her three weeks to complete.
And all her hard work paid off?
“When I passed my degree, I was so proud,” Ms Faizey Webster said. “I had achieved what I had spent six years been striving for. ”