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Last Modified: June 5, 2023

Utah Locked Syndrome Injury

It was a cold day in December, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was going about his business when he randomly suffered a stroke. He was rushed to the hospital completely unresponsive, and he remained unresponsive for twenty days.  When he woke up on the twentieth day, he was completely paralyzed with only the ability to move his left eyelid.  While Jean-Dominique Bauby wasn’t the first diagnosed with locked in syndrome (LIS), he was and has been one of the most noted cases of locked in syndrome.  In medical terms, locked in syndrome is defined as an all encompassing paralysis of all voluntary muscles except for the individuals’ eyes.  The higher and worse condition of locked in syndrome, known as total locked in syndrome, is where even the eyes are paralyzed creating a patient who cannot move voluntarily.  Many times the patient is fully awake and able to communicate, however they are not able to voluntarily able to move their muscles to do so.  Below is a list of causes that can causes LIS, treatment of LIS, and notable LIS cases.

Causes of Locked In Syndrome

There are several different items that can cause locked in syndrome.  These include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: these injuries can range from a wide degree of accidents. Locked in syndrome usually occurs in patients who have more damage to the lower part of their brain and brain stem.
  • Moderate Disease: this can be of the circulatory system or disease such as cancer. Many times different diseases attack the cells in one’s body. When these cells attack the brain it can shut down your nervous system.
  • Strokes: most cases of locked in syndrome are caused by strokes around or near the basilar artery. This artery provides oxygen and blood flow to the brain. When this artery is compromised, paralysis may ensue.
  • Damage to nerves: specifically damage to the myelin sheath or the lining around the axon of a neruron within the brain. This makes nerve communication poor and can cause paralysis.

Treatment of Locked in Syndrome

Due to the fact that LIS is a pretty severe disease, there is no gold standard in treatment and there is no cure.  Depending on the severity of LIS doctors may suggest a number of stimulation techniques to help relax the muscles and probe the nerves.  There are only two notable patients who have ever made a full recovery; Kate Allet and Kerry Pink. Most patients who suffer from locked in syndrome only live an average of four months until their body starts to shut down.  There are a few individuals who have lived much longer than this- essentially until their old age. Many of those who suffer from LIS communicate through blinking of their eyes.  Recently, developments of EEG wires and brain waves have been a successful communication tool for some LIS patients.

Notable LIS Cases

Below is a list of cases that have been successful or broken ground for understanding locked in syndrome.

  • Rom Houben:  injured in a near fatal crash, doctors classified Houben in a vegetable state for 23 years before his prognosis was bumped to locked in syndrome after they discovered he had movement of his right hand. This pioneering discovery opened doctors to the options of slight recovery in the vegetative state.
  • Christine Waddell: the longest survivor of locked in syndrome in Britain fell in 1996 and has been classified as having LIS ever since.
  • Tony Quan AKA Tempt One:  starting in 2003 Quan suffered from a nerve disorder which put him into LIS.  A nationally renowned artist, Quan has continued his art by using his eyes.
  • Stephen Hawking: scientist and researcher, Hawking has been completely paralyzed since 2005.
  • M. Noirtier de Villefort:  fictional character from the Count of Monte Cristo, M. Noirtier is unable to move and only able to communicate with his eyes.

If you or a loved one have suffered from locked in syndrome due to someone else’s negligence, please contact us at Christensen & Hymas for a free initial consultation.  You may call us at 801.506.0800.

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