BLACKPOOL FC’s former youth team coach who is battling a devastating illness has made it home in time for Christmas.
Gary Parkinson suffered a stroke in September 2010 and was diagnosed with “locked-in” syndrome.
The ex-Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Everton and Bolton Wanderers star is unable to move, speak or swallow, but is now back with his family in Bolton after his home was revamped to allow him to be cared for by his family.
A lift was built to allow the 44-year-old access to his new bedroom, which has all the facilities he needs, while his kitchen and lounge were widened for better wheelchair access.
The family have fought planning regulations and red tape for the last 12 months to get the home up to standard.
Gary’s wife Debbie told The Gazette: “Our first night back together as a family was lovely. Gary was lying in his bed smiling and the children were cracking jokes with him.
“It’s lovely and great to have him back for Christmas and we’re having regular meetings with the nurses about what’s going to happen so we can all enjoy the day.
“It’s busy and hectic having him here and every couple of hours we have nurses coming in who are caring for him day and night.”
Two nurses work split shifts to look after Blackpool’s former Head of Youth and the Professional Footballer’s Association have paid for a speech therapist to work with him in the hope he may speak again.
Father-of-three Gary is only able to communicate with his family through a machine.
The home’s improvements were made possible through thousands of pounds in donations which were raised via charity football matches and dinners held by former players and fans of the six clubs he has played for since 1985.
Debbie added: “There’s going to be a lot of hard work and there’s still a lot of improvements to come.
“It’s not a case of living happily ever after because we still need to work with him to get him as comfortable as possible. We’ve all seen a change in him since he came home but I can see he is fatigued at the moment.
“It will take a couple of weeks before he is OK but he will build a tolerance up.”
Since arriving home, the family have all been able to attend their youngest daughter’s carol service.
Debbie added: “It’s brilliant for us all to be back together.
“Christmas is a busy time but we want to be relaxing with him and be happy together.”