After suffering a stroke at age 22, Mark Ellis was left unable to move. He could communicate only by rolling his eyes or blinking. The British man's wife, Amy, had just given birth to their daughter, Lola-Rose. "It was a dream turned into a nightmare," Amy Ellis says. Then, Ellis started mimicking his baby as she learned her first words and took her first steps, and, defying doctors' predictions, he started re-learning how to walk and talk, too. Here, a guide to this miraculous story:
What happened to Ellis?
Two weeks after Lola-Rose was born, Ellis started complaining of severe migraines. Then he suffered a severe stroke, and doctors put him into an induced coma and told Amy it was unlikely he would survive. He awoke a week later with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. Essentially, he was trapped in his body. Mentally he was alert, but he was unable to move anything but his eyes — rolling his eyes up for "yes," down for "no."
Was he expected to recover?
No. Doctors said the severe blood clot that he had suffered in his brain stem made it unlikely that he would ever walk or talk again. Ellis started undergoing speech and physical therapy. Several months into his hospital stay, his newborn daughter was starting to babble and learning to move across the floor. Ellis' therapist encouraged him to watch the baby, and copy her.
How well did it work?
Mark Ellis quickly started copying little Lola-Rose. "He started to make the same sounds," Amy Ellis says, "and then the words came too." A week or two after Lola-Rose took her first steps, her dad did, too. By March 2011, eight months after the stroke, Ellis was able to walk out of the hospital using a walker, and go home. Since then, he has continued making progress right along with Lola-Rose. "They use toys, books, games, and the iPad together," his wife says, "to learn how to do things and communicate."
What do doctors have to say about the case?
That it's exceedingly rare for a patient with locked-in syndrome to make such a recovery, although doctors have found that tapping into emotions to stimulate patients does sometimes seem to help. Most locked-in sufferers who do make gains still have to use a wheelchair and need assistance eating, says Dr. Srivas Chennu, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University. "The fact [that Ellis] has recovered to the extent he can walk home and has recovered his speech is quite remarkable," Chennu says, and he probably has his daughter to thank for it.