Running Free is a life-affirming and upbeat true story. It proves miracles can happened if you have the determination, and love and support of your family and best friends.
Can you imagine being trapped in your own body? Able to see and hear everything going on around you but unable to move or speak - the blink of an eye your only way to communicate.
Super-fit young mother-of-three Kate Allatt’s life was torn apart when she became locked in her own body after suffering a massive stroke caused by a blood clot to her brainstem. Left totally paralysed and unable to speak, her chances of survival were 50/50 and doctors said she would never walk or talk again. She wanted to die. But her family and best friends willed her to live and with their love and support she channelled her sense of fun and fighting spirit into making a miracle recovery that amazed medical experts.
Using a letter chart Kate blinked the words “I will walk again”. Soon she was moving her thumb and communicating with the world via Facebook. Eight months later she said goodbye to nurses and walked out of hospital to return home and start training for her first run.
‘Kate’s life was torn apart ... her recovery has been amazing’ Daily Mirror
Kate Allatt is a 40-year-old mother of three and a keen fell runner. She lives in Sheffield with her husband Mark and three children India, 11, Harvey, 10 and Woody, 6.
Before her stroke she ran her own digital marketing company and was preparing an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Sunday February 7 2010
I DON’T KNOW WHAT a migraine feels like. I’ve managed to live for thirty-nine years without ever having one. But if it makes you wish you could just take off your head and hand it over to someone else to look after until it stops yelling, then I guess the doctor at A&E must be right, that’s what I’ve got.
Just four hours ago that same doctor sent me home with a packet of Co-codamol painkillers and told me to take it easy for a couple of days. I am trying my best to follow his advice which considering that I am mum to three active children isn’t easy.
I’ve spent the afternoon lying in bed wishing the drugs would kick in and ease this relentless throb at the back of my head. I close my eyes and clutch the back of my neck, gently allowing my fingers to massage the base of my skull, wishing this agony would subside just long enough to let me drift off into a pain-free sleep. Please, just one hour of rest and I’ll be OK.
Suddenly I hear ‘MUM!’ There’s a brotherly war breaking out in the bathroom between Harvey, nine, and Woody, six. Woody’s calling for backup. I try to block out their arguments knowing that my husband, Mark, who is down in the kitchen clearing up the remnants of Sunday lunch, will step in if it gets out of hand, as it usually does. But I can’t ignore the noise. This headache is making me irritable. I get up from the bed and make my way to the bathroom.
‘Harvey, if you don’t leave your brother alone, you won’t be going football training after school tomorrow,’ I snap, causing another wave of nausea to wash over me. Mark hears my distress and comes to my rescue.
‘You’re stressing, sit down, I’ll deal with them. Just calm down, and I’ll make you a cup of Earl Grey tea,’ he says, slightly irritated. Wrapping his arm around my shoulder, he guides me downstairs to the lounge, where I slump on the red leather sofa and cradle my head, which is throbbing so badly. This is the mother of all headaches. Our daughter India, eleven, has left the television on and gone upstairs to get her school bag ready for the morning. On the plasma screen there’s a repeat of last week’s Dancing on Ice where some soap star is twirling around like a pro. But I’m not really watching. I look at the clock on the TV screen. 6.09 p.m. I feel bad, really bad. Not just throbbing headache bad, but a sensation that I can’t really describe. My body feels weak, like all the life is draining out of me. I start to panic.
‘Mark, what’s happening to me? I feel weird,’ I shout to Mark who is just yards away in the kitchen. The words come out in a slur. ‘Mmmeugh,’ a stifled moan leaves my mouth and suddenly Mark is in front of me but his face is a blur. My entire body turns rigid and I panic as I slide off the sofa, landing on the floor in an inelegant heap. I feel Mark’s arms around me as he tries to lift my dead weight and arrange my stiff limbs in to some semblance of comfort on the rug. I can only make out vague shapes and movement in the room, but I sense my husband’s panic as he calls to our daughter, ‘India, go and call Burt next door.’
Seconds pass, but I have no concept of time, just blind terror. I am no longer in control of my own body and it scares the shit out of me. Mark is still close, I can just about make out the whiteness of his T-shirt contrasting with the darkness of his hair.
‘Please, help me. Don’t leave me,’ I beg inside my head.
I hear India’s voice in the distance telling Mark that our neighbour is out and asking what’s happening.
‘Go and get Lise, just get anyone,’ Mark responds, sending India to get help from our other neighbour, who also happens to be a nurse. The fear in his voice is rising as he holds me. Mark, my usually calm, sensible ‘everything is black or white’ kind of guy, is panicking. Right now, he can only see black.
‘Kate, can you hear me? What’s happening? Are you all right Kate?’ Lise is here. I’ve no idea how long it’s taken for her to arrive. I am hot, I want to reach out for something to fan myself with, but I can’t move. My eyes are fixed wide open in fright like a rabbit caught in headlights. Now I can’t even control my breathing, I struggle to gulp for air. I hear myself making desperate panting sounds. Lise sends India off to get a fan and shouts at Mark to call 999 quickly.
A paramedic is first to arrive. He listens to my heart and checks my blood pressure then gets on his radio to call for back-up, an ambulance for a ‘lady in distress’. I wait. Mark and Lise are following the paramedic’s advice and putting damp flannels on my forehead to keep me cool. But I still feel like I’m in the furnaces of hell. Maybe this is retribution for my lifestyle, running a home and business, ferrying the kids to their after-school clubs and activities and my own punishing fell-running regime. ‘Is she having a fit?’ Mark asks the paramedic.
‘This is no fit,’ is the stern response.
Minutes pass and we wait, all the time I feel weaker. The paramedic gets back on his radio. He’s not taking any excuses. ‘Send me any unit you can and send it now.’ Even he seems to be panicking.
This is serious: Mark knows this is serious and I know it’s serious. The paramedic tells Mark to go and get an overnight bag ready for me as I’m going to need it. I hear Mark’s footsteps on the stairs and he returns with my running kit, silly sod. I know I love being out running on the fells, but running kit is the last thing I need at this moment.
Two men in green arrive and lift me onto a stretcher. As I’m wheeled out of my home, I think, where are the kids? I hope they don’t see me like this. Then I wonder, am I wearing matching knickers and bra?
I feel a trickle running down the inside of my left thigh as I’m wheeled into the back of the ambulance. Oh great, now I’ve peed myself. How will I ever live with the embarrassment? Mark holds my hand as the sirens scream and I slip in and out of consciousness like someone is pressing the pause button on my life.
Intensive Care Unit
Wednesday February 10 2010
‘OH SHIT! WHAT’S HAPPENED here?’ was my first thought when I regained consciousness. I was alive. But only just. I had been in a coma for three days. I could hear the noise of machines all around me in the intensive care unit. I was trussed up like a turkey. I had never seen so many tubes. They were up my nose, in my arms and worst of all was the monster tube stuffed in my mouth. I wanted to spit it out, but I couldn’t move anything except my eye-lids. What I didn’t realise was that the tube was also linked to the machine that was breathing for me. It was making me dribble, which is not a good look for anyone, especially a glamorous young mum like me. I don’t feel glamorous right now, I feel scared.
I couldn’t move yet my mind was functioning fine and working overtime. ‘This is what it must feel like to be buried alive,’ I thought to myself. Only this was worse because I could see life carrying on around me and had no way of being part of it. Doctors and nurses were huddled at the foot of my bed; they were mumbling about me. ‘Hey, don’t you know it’s rude to talk about people when they’re in the room,’ I said. But of course my thoughts were silent. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying about me, which was really annoying, but from the look on their faces I was someone to be pitied. As they walked away I heard laughter coming from the nurses’ station. The drugs must have been making me paranoid because I thought they must be laughing at me. ‘Come on, you guys, let me in on the joke. I’ve got a sense of humour. I could really do with something to cheer me up right now,’ I was desperate for them to realise I was fun-loving Kate. I wanted to show them that underneath the tubes there was a nice, normal mother just like them, not some medical near-fatality. But they were gone in a blink. A nurse appeared with a clipboard and busied herself with one of the machines. She didn’t even notice the tears of frustration running down my cheek. ‘Please come and talk to me. I know I probably look like shit, but I won’t bite.’
At least that headache had finally gone. The pain in the back of my head was the reason I was lying there so close to death. I later discovered that it hadn’t been a migraine after all but a blood clot to the stem of my brain or, to put it bluntly, a massive stroke. I had been given a 50/50 chance of survival and for three days the doctors had been keeping me in a coma to give my brain a rest and the chance to recover. When I came round, I had been left ‘locked in’. All my muscles – which controlled every movement in my body – were paralysed. Not only was I unable to sit up or move a finger, I could not even breathe or swallow for myself. I was completely helpless. Yet I was able to move my eyelids – I could open my eyes and watch everything in my field of vision. I could think for myself and understand everything that was going on around me. But did anyone know that I was alive inside my own paralysed body?