Being conscious but paralyzed can be extremely scary at first, but with treatment and support, many people in this situation can retain a relatively high quality of life. When someone suffers a stroke or other brain stem injury, he or she may develop locked in syndrome.
This condition leaves them conscious, aware, and alert. However, he or she cannot communicate because their entire body is paralyzed. Most people with this condition retain only vertical eye movement. He or she may or may not be able to blink their eyes. Depending on the areas of their brain affected, he or she may retain sensation but no movement. Life expectancy for patients with locked in syndrome who receive proper supportive care can be several decades.
It Can Take Time to Get an Accurate Diagnosis
Unfortunately, it often takes several months or even years to get an accurate diagnosis for locked in syndrome and similar conditions. According to the medical journal Progress in Brain Research, studies before 2005 found it took an average of 2.5 months for a diagnosis. In some cases, it can take five years or more for doctors to recognize the person is conscious and alert but “locked in.”
In many cases, it is the family who first notices the patient seems alert and brings it to the doctor’s attention. Only once there is an accurate diagnosis can the patient receive the supportive care he or she needs to communicate and live a fulfilling life. Unfortunately, a delayed diagnosis means the patient may not get the emotional support and mental stimulation he or she craves for an extended period. The mental anguish that may occur during that delay is unimaginable.
Communication Is Key to a High Quality of Life
While significant motor recovery is unlikely, modern technology makes it possible for those with locked in syndrome to communicate with their doctors and families and even to access the Internet. Eye gaze devices may allow them to operate their motorized wheelchair, to draft emails and other documents, and to use a speech synthesizing voice device.
When these patients gain access to eye gaze devices or computer-brain interfaces, he or she can reconnect with the outside world. This technology provides a vital way to interact with their environment and offers them some control over their daily life. It also enables them to make decisions about their health care instead of relying on family members.
Locked In Syndrome Requires Ongoing Care and Support
Even with technology, those with locked in syndrome require significant ongoing care and support. While a good quality of life is possible, feelings of isolation and depression are possible. Needing help with even the most basic tasks can be difficult and frustrating. Family members need to invest in tools and devices to provide the necessary care. This may include:
- A specially designed motorized wheelchair
- Hospital bed
- Lift system
- Tools for bathing and hygienic care
- A van or other vehicle with a wheelchair lift
- Communication devices
In some cases, regular nursing care may be necessary. A home health care nurse may make regular visits to the person’s home to give medications, help with feedings, or provide other supportive medical care. While having locked in syndrome does require a person to rely on family and professionals for almost all their activities of daily living, he or she can also contribute to society, participate in their family, and take part in events in their community.
Pursuing Compensation for Locked In Syndrome
In some cases, you may be eligible to pursue compensation on behalf of an immediate family member who is conscious but paralyzed. While this locked in syndrome can result naturally and not because of negligence on the part of someone else, medical malpractice can cause and exacerbate the condition.
Occasionally, a traumatic brain injury can lead to the stroke or damage that causes locked in syndrome. This may occur when:
- Another driver causes a car accident and your loved one suffered head injuries
- Your loved one was the victim of a violent act including a shooting or stabbing
Additionally, damage to the brain stem can lead to this condition following:
- A stroke due to medical malpractice
- Delayed or incorrect diagnosis due to medical malpractice
- Other cases of medical malpractice
The legal team from Newsome | Melton will review your case for free. Let us explain your rights and take legal action on your behalf. Your family may be eligible to recover:
- Medical treatment costs
- Ongoing care costs
- Future care costs
- Lost wages and benefits
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Wrongful death damages
Call us today at (800) 917-5888 to learn more. We can go to work for you right away.