A former footballer with ‘locked-in syndrome’ has landed a job as a talent scout – using just the blinking of his eyes to communicate.
Research published earlier this year found that a majority of locked-in patients are happy and do not want to die.
The study, which was published online by the British Medical Journal Open, undermined calls by pro-euthanasia groups to change the laws so that such people can be ‘put out of their misery’.
Gary Parkinson, who played for Middlesbrough in the 80s and 90s, had a stroke last year. While he is aware of what is going on around him, he cannot move or speak.
Now the 43-year-old is again working for his former team, with manager Tony Mowbray commenting that the club will be there for him long after the headlines disappear.
Deborah, Gary’s wife, described how the scouting set-up works: “A DVD comes down to us, with a sheet of paper. There is a description of the player, his name, his age, his position and the clubs he has played for.”
She then counts slowly from one to four. When she gets to the number he thinks the player should get, with four being the highest, he raises his eyelids.
Mr Parkinson, a father of three, was working at Blackpool Football Club when he had the stroke.
Deborah said: “Gary still loves his football, knows all about youth football from his time as the youth team coach at Blackpool, and you can see he picks up when he is doing it.”
Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray commented on the appointment, saying: “We were determined to give Gary a role where he could feel involved. Not only that, I genuinely value his opinions about the game.
“We let him have a look at some of the players who come to our attention and it gives Gary something to concentrate on.
“Long after he ceases to be headline news, we will still be there for him”.
Dr Carol Cooper commented on Mr Parkinson’s condition in the Sun newspaper, saying: “Locked-in syndrome is a neurological condition where a victim is aware of what goes on and their thinking is completely normal — but they can’t communicate with the outside world.”
She added: “It is so incredibly frustrating for the victim and extremely hard to diagnose.
“The danger is that people assume they are brain dead. But that is not the case. It is just that victims can’t move anything – but they can feel and they can think.”