A woman who developed locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke at the age of 30 has overcome her disability to complete a university degree by blinking.

Dawn Faizey Webster suffered a stroke two weeks after giving birth to her son Alexander.

She was fully-aware and awake but unable to move or communicate verbally due to paralysis of nearly all the muscles in her body, except for her eyes.

Read more: A true heart-warming tale


The former teacher has now gained a 2:2 degree in ancient history and written an autobiography - thanks to a laptop that translates her eye movements into text. She began her studies in 2008.

She now hopes to tackle a Master's in the history of art.

Living with her parents in Rugeley, Staffordshire, she began her degree in 2008, determined not to be beaten.

Finishing the Open University qualification has been a Herculean task because her fastest writing pace of 50 words per hour has meant each three-hour exam has taken three weeks to complete.

Ms Faizey Webster, now 42, worked three hours a day on the degree, nudging buttons either side of her head to move the cursor on the screen and blinking to register the letters.

"When I passed my degree, I was so pleased and proud of myself," she said.

"No matter what obstacles were in my way, such as getting pneumonia twice and other lesser illnesses, I was determined to reach my goal.

"When I had my stroke, I realised I would not be able to do anything physical. I decided to use the thing that had not been affected and that was my brain.

"I felt I needed to prove to myself and to others that I was still me, Dawn."

Her problems began when she was taken to hospital 26 weeks into her pregnancy and was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia - a potentially-fatal condition associated with high blood pressure.

Over the next six days her health deteriorated. Her baby had to be delivered by caesarean weighing just 1lb 8oz.

A week later Ms Faizey Webster returned home - still suffering high blood pressure - but was told she would be fine.

But days later her high blood pressure triggered a stroke.

"I immediately knew something was terribly wrong," she said. "I felt dizzy and my voice was horribly slurred."

She said she was vaguely aware of a tracheostomy tube going into her neck to help her breathe.

"My mind screamed that my brain was fine," she said. "But as I couldn't speak, no one could hear me shouting that my brain was still alive."

Over the following week, she drifted in and out of consciousness. Her condition got so bad that even her eye muscles were paralysed.

She listened, while her family discussed her condition and doctors told her husband to prepare for the worst.

"All I could do was lie there hopelessly watching them, listening for snippets of news about how Alexander was.

"Inside I cried, but no tears came out. When people saw me, they had no idea I was as wide-awake as ever."

A breakthrough came when she was finally able to blink to her father Alec. She said: "My dad asked me if I could hear him and told me to blink. [When] I blinked, he jumped up in shock."

She was soon fitted with the laptop that allowed her to communicate, but months later her husband Simon walked out.

"When Simon left me it was a crushing blow; I had always believed we married in sickness and in health," she said. "I was sure if it had been the other way round - and this had happened to him - I would always have been there for him. He saw us both as victims, alone and confused. But I felt betrayed."

The couple now share custody of their son, who lives with his father but visits Ms Faizey Webster.

Her 80-year-old father is her full-time carer along with her mother Shirley, 75. "It's amazing she has managed to do this considering her condition," he said.

"We are so proud of her. She worked so hard to get there. Before her stroke she used to love travelling. Egypt was one of her favourite places because of her love of history.

"It was heartbreaking to see her go through all of this. But she hasn't given up. She has her bad days, as anyone in her situation would, but she is determined to keep going."

"She is graduating in October up in Manchester. It's going to be such a proud moment for us all."