Locked-in mum achieves university degree by blinking

A severely paralysed mother says she is “so pleased and proud” after completing a university degree – by blinking.

Dawn Faizey Webster had a major stroke two weeks after her son was born and now has locked-in syndrome – meaning her mind is active but her body is paralysed.

She has finished a degree with the Open University in Ancient History, and is considering a Masters in History of Art.

Goal

Each university exam took Dawn three weeks to complete as she writes at 50 words an hour.

She said: “When I passed my degree, I was so pleased and proud of myself. I had achieved my goal that I had for six years been striving for.

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

Proud moment

Dawn worked three-hour days on the degree, blinking to register letters on a computer and using her head to move the cursor on screen.

Her 80-year-old father Alec and 75-year-old mother Shirley care for Dawn every day, and said they were ecstatic.

“She is graduating in October up in Manchester, it’s going to be such a proud moment for us all”, Alec commented.

Pre-eclampsia

In 2003 Dawn was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and shortly after gave birth to baby Alexander at 26 weeks. He weighed 1lb 8oz.

She then suffered a stroke and while being cared for in hospital Dawn was able to hear medics and family discuss her condition, but she could not speak.

Later her father told her to blink if she could hear him – and she did.

Nothing physical

Following Dawn’s stroke her husband left her, something she described as a “crushing blow”.

Dawn started the degree six years ago, and explained: “When I first had my stroke, I realised I would not be able to do anything physical.

“I then decided to use the thing that had not been affected and that was my brain.”