Desperate fight for Pool coach

THE wife of Blackpool FC coach Gary Parkinson says her husband will not give up the fight of his life after suffering a catastrophic stroke.

It is feared the Bloomfield Road favourite is at the mercy of a dreadful condition known as "locked-in syndrome" where a patient is aware and awake but, due to almost complete paralysis of their muscles, cannot move or communicate apart from with their eyes.

Pool manager Ian Holloway yesterday missed training ahead of tomorrow's Premier League clash with champions Chelsea to meet with Parkinson's wife Debbie.

Despite the terrible odds facing her husband – only a handful of people are known to have recovered from locked-in syndrome – Mrs Parkinson is convinced her desperately ill husband will fight back.

Holloway said: "Gary has had a terrible stroke and they (the doctors) haven't given him much hope.

"I've had illnesses and bereavements before but not like this, not where someone is actually trapped in a body that is relatively healthy and they can't get the messages through.

"The doctors can't really do much more and there are only two people who have ever really got over a stroke this severe. But his wife Debbie is absolutely fantastic.

"It was great to see her yesterday. I am amazed at the strength of the lady.

"She believes he is there and wants to try and get him out and get him back home. She is saying 'if two people have done it before, why can't Gary?'"

Parkinson, Blackpool's top youth coach, was taken to Royal Bolton Hospital on September 6. The father-of-three was transferred to Salford Royal two days later as his condition worsened.

Holloway promised the club would back Mrs Parkinson's efforts and remain optimistic.

He said: "Gary is a very fit man. His body is still very fit. Unfortunately his brain is not. We have got to help his family as much as we can.

"As long as there is hope, as long as someone has come back before, then hopefully Gary can. But it's a shock to everybody, he is only 42."

During last Saturday's 2-0 victory over Newcastle, players wore shirts emblazoned with the message '4 Parky'.

Holloway added: "I've tried to keep filling the players in on any news. I had a chat with them yesterday. It was a bit strange that I wasn't taking training, particularly on a day so close to the match, but I felt it was more important that I spoke to Debbie.

"I'm sure the lads will keep doing what Gary would want us to keep doing, play football in a way that makes people proud.

"His wife told me to tell the lads to please keep what they are doing. She told Gary what was said about him, and the people who are ringing up about him."

Specialists say locked-in syndrome is one of the severest forms of stroke.

Dr James McIlmoyle, consultant in stroke medicine at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: "This is one of the most rare forms of stroke, in six years here I have never seen a case.

"Its called "locked-in" because the person is aware of everything going on around them, but they can't respond.

"It's usually caused by a blood clot travelling into the brain and consequently cuts off the signals to the lower body.

"It's an awful condition with a very poor prognosis, as the patient just can't respond. However, they can communicate through blinking, as eye movement is retained. There have been very rare exceptions to this rule."

In 1993, Graham Miles, from Surrey, suffered a stroke and became paralysed apart from eyes. His condition improved gradually. Today he can walk with two sticks and drive a car.

The most noted case of the syndrome is that of Parisian journalist Jean Dominique Bauby who suffered a stroke in December 1995, and could only control his left eyelid.

By blinking this eye, he slowly dictated one letter at a time and, in so doing, was famously able to write his memoir, The Diving Bell and Butterfly, which was made into a film in 2007.