THE family of a young Merseyside woman trapped inside her own body after suffering a stroke is raising funds to bring her home from hospital.
Mia Austin, from Bebington, can’t speak and can communicate only by moving her eyes. But she is completely aware and awake.
The 21-year-old was perfectly healthy before she suddenly became a prisoner in her own body with Locked-In Syndrome.
She woke up during the night, collapsed without warning and has barely moved since.
Medics describe her extremely rare condition as “the closest thing to being buried alive”.
There is no known treatment or cure.
Her family – dad Rick, mum Carol, brother Sam, 24, sister Sophie, 16 – are now raising funds to adapt the family home so they can bring her back from Clatterbridge Hospital, where she is currently being cared for.
Doctors didn't expect Mia to survive the night after she was struck by the disease last November and put on a life support machine at Arrowe Park Hospital.
They were preparing to switch it off. But Mia opened her eyes, and doctors, who thought she had suffered a brain haemorrhage, realised despite being completely immobile she could still see, hear and think as normal.
She’s now able to communicate, very slowly, using an alphabet board.
She uses eye movements – indicating up, down and across – to spell out words letter by letter.
And Mia can breathe unaided, unlike some Locked-In patients.
Her cousin, Sharon Jones, said: “Mia was a perfectly fit and healthy girl.
“There was no sign that anything was wrong with her.
“She got up in the night and collapsed and that was it.
“She can only move her eyes now. She knows everything that's going on but she just can't communicate.
“It's so sad.
“We chat to her and she moves her eyes up for yes and down for no. She gets distressed sometimes and cries a lot.
“She was lovely, not just beautiful, but a really lovely person.”
The film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is based on the 1997 autobiography of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who had Locked-In Syndrome.
He dictated his story to a nurse by moving his left eyelid after he was diagnosed with the condition.
Eye-tracking technology now allows patients to control a computer and communicate effectively.
Ms Jones added: “Some people get infections. Some live a long life. The doctors have told her and boyfriend Richard to take each day as it comes.
“She says she wants to come home. She’s been home for a day a couple of times.”
More than £2,500 has been raised so far through the Mountains for Mia campaign set up by her family.
Go to the website www.mountainsformia.co.uk to offer a donation.