A young woman who was left paralysed from the neck down after suffering a severe stroke has written a book using only her eyes.
Mia Austin, 29, was just 21 years old when a stroke left her trapped in her own body, unable to speak.
She was diagnosed with ‘locked in syndrome’, a condition doctors describe as “the closest thing to being buried alive”. While she can see, hear, and think as normal, Austin cannot move from the neck down and has to be fed through a tube.
She can now only communicate through eye movement and a spelling chart - the method she used to pen her book, In the Blink of an Eye. In the book, which is due to launch on 27 April, Austin shares her experiences of life after the stroke.
In her introduction, Austin writes: “I must have woken on the morning of November 16 2009, totally oblivious as to what was going to happen because I'd been to work, as usual, nothing different, followed by the gym where I did my normal workout.
“I went straight in to tell my mum how badly I’d done (at the gym) and she replied ‘There’s always tomorrow’...
“Welcome to my story all about me. Now you can get into the head of a stroke victim.”
After Austin suffered the stroke at her home in Wirral, doctors told her family to expect the worst. They didn’t believe Austin, who was put on a life support machine at Arrowe Park Hospital, Merseyside, would survive the night.
However, as they were preparing to withdraw life support, Austin opened her eyes. Despite being completely immobile, doctors realised she could still see, hear and think as normal and she was diagnosed with ‘locked in syndrome’ a week later.
Her mother Carole, 62, recalls: “She [Austin] was in the hospital for around 14 months and writing poems and stories kept her alert and occupied. I think the idea [for the book] stemmed from there really.”
Speaking of his daughter’s book, Austin’s father Rick said: “Personally, I feel incredibly proud of Mia. To write a book in quite literally a blink of an eye is outstanding.
“It took her around one year to write but it was a very laborious task, using her eyes to choose each letter.”
The family, including Austin’s bother Sam, 32, and sister Sophie, 25, all helped Austin using a spelling chart to write poems and short stories in the hospital. Carole said: “As you can imagine using the spelling graph took forever, it was very tiring for her, it is so much easier now she has the special computer.
“In this book, Mia writes about her experiences and addresses all the questions everyone probably wants to know but are too polite to ask.
“I am so proud of her, from the start we have all maintained a sink and swim mentality to what has happened and Mia has proven just how brave and driven she is.”
The book is by no means Austin’s only incredible feat of determination. She completed a criminology course at Wirral Metropolitan College in 2017 before signing up for a forensics course with the Open University. And this year she will begin another course in criminal justice.
Before her stroke, Austin worked as a travel agent, but has since devoted much of her time to charity work, including recently launching a campaign for disabled travellers.
Austin has taken part in several challenges in order to raise money for charity, including sleeping rough on the streets of Liverpool to raise awareness about homelessness. She has also been on aid missions to orphanages in Gambia, and the Calais Jungle back in September 2016.
In an interview with The Mirror, Austin explained her desire to give back to the charities that have supported her. She said: “I love to take part in new challenges to prove I can succeed despite my condition. I also want to support various charities because I have received help myself in the past.”
In the Blink of an Eye shares Austin’s incredible experiences. Her father remarked on the support Austin has received for the book: “So far the response from the book has been fantastic but Mia is always looking for feedback and would love people to get in touch to tell her what they think.
“She’s on her Facebook page all the time as she’s stuck in the house, she can’t speak so she has a computer which recognises her eye gaze and will spell things out which keeps her updated.“
Keep up to date with Mia Austin via her Facebook page.
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