9:11am Wednesday 19th December 2012
By Chris Adams
BURNLEY legend Gary Parkinson has given his family the best Christmas present ever – by returning home for good.
The 44-year-old, a Second Division play-off winner with the Clarets in 1994, was left with Locked-In Syndrome after suffering a stroke in September 2010.
Now the ex-Clarets full-back has returned to his wife Debbie and their children Luke, 19, Chloe, 16, and Sophie, 8, at the family home in Westhoughton, near Bolton.
He had been receiving full-time care at Priory High Bank Centre in Summerseat, near Ramsbottom, for the past year.
Debbie, his wife of 22 years, said: “We’re over the moon that he’s home and we’re just trying to adjust to it.
“We’re just looking forward to Christmas Day and having all five of us together.
“We’ve been worked really hard to get him home over the last 12 months and have been adapting the house and now there’s a through-floor lift to take him up to his bedroom suite.”
Gary, from Thornaby, also played for Middlesborough, Southend United, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End, Blackpool, Stalybridge Celtic and Rossendale United in a 16-year career after a spell as a trainee with Everton.
Locked-In Syndrome is a rare condition which leaves sufferers unable to move or speak. Gary can only communicate by blinking and has spent has spent 28 months away from his loved ones as they adapted his home.
As his condition has not changed, Gary will continue to get round-the-clock care from nurses and medical staff at home.
Debbie praised the support she and the family had received from the football fraternity.
Supporters, former colleagues and friends have raised around £100,000 through the Gary Parkinson Trust Fund since it was set up in August 2011, through a series of cycle rides, benefit matches and wristband sales.
Debbie said: “I wanted to let everyone know he’s come home because of all the messages and support and cards we’ve been given.
“It’s been hard at times and it still will be.
“But we’d really like to thank everyone that made it possible to bring him home, and who’ve done fundraising to help adapt the house and so I could stop work and look after him.”
Gary, who turns 45 in January, was most recently head of the youth department at Blackpool and guided the youth team to the Lancashire FA Youth Cup in April 2008.
Even since his stroke, he continued to act as a scout for Middlesborough when his former teammate Tony Mowbray was in charge, watching DVDs of players and using a system of blinks to identify worthwhile targets.
In October, Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor said his organisation hoped to fund a speech therapist to work with Gary in the hope he may regain some ability to talk.
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