'I was terrified they'd turn off my life support': Horror of mother whose medics thought was brain dead...but heard every word they said as she lay paralyzed and robbed of speech for two weeks.She had spent ten days in a coma after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 39.
So when Kate Allatt came around in a hospital bed it should have been a huge relief to her family - and herself.
However, regaining consciousness was just the start of her nightmare. She soon realised that although her mind was functioning perfectly, everyone around her thought she was brain dead.
She lay paralysed, robbed of speech and unable to breathe on her own, listening in horror as medics and relatives discussed her prognosis and terrified that they would decide to turn off life support.
Ms Allatt, a 39-year-old mother-of-three was suffering from Locked-In Syndrome, which left her unable to communicate and a prisoner in her own body for two weeks. ‘Locked-In Syndrome is like being buried alive,' Ms.Allatt, from South Yorkshire, in England, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘You can think, you can feel, you can hear, but you can communicate absolutely nothing.’
For two weeks doctors and loved ones of Kate Allatt believed she was brain dead. However Ms Allatt, who had suffered a stroke and subsequent Locked-In Syndrome, was conscious but paralysed, unable to communicate that she was lucid and alert.
Mary-Louise Clifford had been revived by paramedics and was not waking from an induced coma. During her time in a coma, Ms Clifford remembers an 'alternative world' - much of which was inspired by the people and conversations around her bedside.
Four years later and Ms Allatt is now an author (three times over) who is raising awareness about the importance of understanding strokes and treating patients with respect and dignity.
‘You must assume everyone is conscious until you’ve proved otherwise, not the other way around,' urges Ms Allatt.
Ms Allatt will share her story on SBS' Insight program, set to air on Tuesday evening, exploring consciousness.
The program asks how we can be sure if someone is conscious or not, exploring questions about the mind, memory and how our brain responds to trauma.
Insight will also discuss the experience of NSW Central Coast resident Mary-Louise Clifford, who experienced a 'parallel universe' during a near-death experience.
Ms Clifford had a pulmonary embolism in 2013.
Paramedics spent 19 minutes administering CPR, trying to bring her back to life after she went into cardiac arrest.
Recover: Kate Allatt had to fight back to health after her horrific experience
Ms Clifford was placed in an induced coma but did not wake from it, when the drugs keeping her in the coma were reduced.
She remembers experiencing a world that felt real, a 'parallel existence' in a surreal scenario.
'I thought I was at a party trying to video my friends and family coming out of the party from underneath a canopy of a boat,' Ms Clifford tells Daily Mail Australia with a laugh.
Remarkably, it seems Ms Clifford had a level of consciousness during her coma, and her brain attempted to make sense of the stimuli around her - creating a strange kind of world.
Many people who are visiting loved ones in a state of unconsciousness may question whether there is any point talking to the patient.
Ms Clifford was able to reveal information about the people around her in the hospital room, what was being said to her and even the layout of the room after she woke from her coma.
'All the people who were guests at the party were the friends and family who were coming to see me.
'Obviously my brain took in all the people together and thought hey! It must be a party,' she jokes.
Ms Clifford, who is also considered a medical miracle, is in awe at what the brain can do.
'My experience has made me think about all the things we don’t understand and know about the world,' said Ms Clifford.
'How clever is our brain that it takes in one bit of stimulus and tries to make sense of what’s going on?'
Ms Clifford also thinks it is crucial that more care and respect is given to people who may not seen responsive when in a state of unconsciousness.
'Just because they can’t articulate it back to you, a lot of the time they do understand or take information on.'
Ms Allatt agrees, as she still feels embarrassment and hurt when she remembers the indignity of her experience.
‘There were nurses that spoke over me. They lowered their expectations of me,' said Ms Allat.
‘It's fair to call me a control freak so to be in that situation is awful.'
‘I’d be left on my shower seat for 20 minutes after a shower, naked.
'I wasn’t saved the embarrassment. The indignity is there and it’s horrible, so mortifying.
‘Treat people as you want to be treated.’
It took two weeks for Ms Allatt to successfully communicate to friends that she was mentally alert
It took two weeks for Ms Allatt to successfully communicate to friends that she was mentally alert.
'They thought I was in a vegetative state. I couldn’t move a muscle. There was no signal I was in there,' Ms Allet said.
'I was on life support and they might have turned it off,' Ms Allatt continues.
'I couldn’t breathe for myself but I could hear conversations that I didn’t want to hear.'
Ms Allatt has made a miraculous recovery due to her relentless work and her sheer will to gain control of her body again.
She describes to Daily Mail Australia the terror and distress she felt as she lay for two weeks, surrounded by loved ones but be unable to tell them that she was still 'there'.
'It was so scary, I can’t tell you. The fear, the anxiety, the terror.
Ms Allatt was also suffering from serious hallucinations due to the opium-based medication.
She had no warning or explanation about these side-effects, as the doctors and nurses were unaware the 39-year-old was lucid and well aware of what was happening to her.
Ms Allatt says her oldest child, daughter India, was one of the only ones who spoke to her like normal - taking 45 minutes to explain her homework and everyday life
'The hallucinations were very, very real to me at the time. I thought, what if the nurses turn off my life machine, I felt so vulnerable.'
'They were so traumatising so every night felt like a battle.
'But of course I couldn’t fight, I couldn’t do anything. My heart constantly felt like it was jumping out of my chest.'
Kate was a fit digital marketing professional and mother-of-three who ran ’70 miles’ a week, but on 7 February 2010 her life changed forever. After three weeks of headaches a junior doctor turned her away with painkiller medication and a suspected migraine.
Five hours later she suffered from a catastrophic stroke – a blood clot on her brain stem.
She was put in a coma for three days, at which time she was ‘totally brain-dead.’
She woke, fully aware of her surroundings, but unable to respond to the world around her.
A loving mother of three children, who at that time were 11, 9 and 6, Kate remembers the most excrutiating experience was when her children came to see her, and she was unable to re-assure them that everything was going to be okay.
'My kids came to see my after two weeks. I was desperate to see them, I’d always been a hands on mother,' Ms Allatt told Daily Mail Australia.
'Like any mum you want to reach out and tell them it’s alright, it’ll be alright and be comforting.
'The children were wonderful. They'd sit and massage my hands and feet.
Ms Allatt was unable to breathe, talk or move a muscle by herself. She is now giving speeches, running and raising awareness and strokes and the humane treatment of patients
The mother says her then-11-year-old daughter India showed maturity beyond her years, when she sat by her bedside, in an incredible demonstration of love she'd never forget.
‘No one was really talking to me. They were talking to each other.
'India was only ten but she sat at my bedside and babbled away, talking about her homework and absolutely anything for 45 minutes straight as if nothing was wrong. Just talking to her mum.
‘I didn’t know until later, but after 45 minutes talking to me, she went outside and threw up everywhere in complete shock in the waiting room.'
‘It was so hard to hear that.’
It was an excrutiating experience for the family and difficult for the children to see their mother in that state.
Ms Allatt was a prisoner in her own body, forced to look on without the ability to offer any comfort or reassure them that their mother was still okay.
‘The roles were reversed, like the kids were my parents and I was the baby,’ she said.
Ms Allatt is incredibly frustrated that the doctors were unable to detect that her brain was continuing to function.
'I couldn’t suggest to anyone that I could understand – that I was actually minimally conscious.'
'Doctor’s are meant to do the Glasgow Coma Scale Test, which checks consciousness. Did they do that enough?
'Were there enough scans to check for brain activity?'
'It was my friends who were finally able to identify that I was still there and to work out ways to communicate with me.
'When I saw people I loved came into the ICU ward, and I would cry – no noise, just tears.
'They realized it wasn't an involuntary response, but actually still me inside.' The stroke sufferer's friend, Jacquie brought in a 'communications' board with the alphabet on it.
'They told me to try and blink – I couldn’t even do that but there was a slight movement of lids. Once for yes and twice for no.'
'It took half an hour to spell out the word "sleep" to tell them that I couldn’t sleep at night.'
'It was the most euphoric moment – yes, they know I’m here!'The doctors kept me alive and thank God they did, I’m very grateful.' 'But there is an emotional person as well as the physical person and it's so important to tend to that emotional person.'
Ms Allatt (pictured in an image from 2010) believes she needs to 'beat the drum' for people who can't do it themselves.
'I feel so strongly that people who are minimally conscious, like I was, need to be assessed properly.
'If their minds are sound, it's also so important to be treated for their emotions,' said Ms Allatt.
'We need a nurse trained in ICU who can, when someone is minimally conscious, sit with them two or three times a week.
'To establish communication if possible. To try and calm the patient and alleviate their fears.'
Ms Allatt has started an organization, fighting strokes and is committed to helping the people who are not as lucky as her. The people who can not talk or walk but continue to think and feel.
‘People tell me to forget about it and move on with my life but what I went through was so, so bad.
'I need to talk about it because that’s how you learn to make improvements,' said Ms Allatt.
'For the people who can't do it themselves - I need to beat the drum for them.'