What is Locked-in Syndrome and what causes it as BGT’s Mark McMullan dedicates semi-final to his brother

Mark McMullan and his brother Declan (Picture: Dymond/Thames/Syco/REX)

During an episode of Britain’s Got Talent on May 4, Mark McMullan floored the nation not just with his incredible singing voice, but with the heart-wrenching story of his brother Declan, who suffers with Locked-in syndrome.

Before his performance, Mark dedicated the song to Declan, and has since described his brother’s condition as like ‘being buried alive’.

Mark told ‘When the opportunity came up for me to audition for Britain’s Got Talent, I just kind of thought as much as I had other things going on in my life, and trying to focus on my career and stuff, everything always comes back to music.

‘I kind of told myself if Declan could do it, he would do it.’

So, as we ready ourselves to see Mark take to the stage once again in tonight’s semi-final episode of Britain’s Got Talent, let’s take a closer look at Locked-in Syndrome and what causes it.

What is Locked-in Syndrome?

Locked-in Syndrome is a rare motor disability which is characterised by the NHS as being similar to a disorder of consciousness – like a coma or a vegetative state – however it is not treated in quite the same way.

A person suffering from Locked-in Syndrome is conscious, is cognitively intact and aware of their surroundings, but they are almost totally paralysed.

Often, someone with Locked-in Syndrome can move their eyes, and communicate through blinking, however there are some cases where a person is left in a completely locked-in state and the eyes are left paralysed as well.

What causes Locked-in Syndrome?

Locked-in Syndrome usually occurs when parts of the lower brain and/or the pons, which is a part of the brain-stem, becomes damaged.

Multiple things are thought to be able to cause Locked-in Syndrome, such as:

  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A stroke
  • Circulatory diseases
  • A lesion to the brain-stem
  • Nerve cell damage
Mark McMullan is back on Britain’s Got Talent this week (Picture: ITV)

How did Mark McMullan’s brother Declan get Locked-in Syndrome?

In Declan’s case, as Mark said: ‘Declan unfortunately when he was 19, he suffered a cardiac arrest in his bedroom, when we were getting ready for school one morning. He just dropped dead in the middle of the bedroom, but obviously, at this point, he was up earlier than the rest of us in the house so nobody was awake to know what was happening.

‘We went in to check on him, when I was getting ready for school that morning and I just happened to notice he was lying in quite a weird position on his bed. He just didn’t look normal, and eventually I went over to him and realised that at that point he was dead, he wasn’t breathing.’

Thankfully, since both Mark and his father knew CPR, they were able to revive Declan and get him the medical care he needed, however Declan’s brush with death left him with this permanent damage.

Mark added: ‘He’s here today with us and we’re really lucky to have him, but too much time had passed between him taking ill and the paramedics getting there that a lot of brain damage occurred.

‘The only way I can describe it is it’s like being buried alive,’ he continued. ‘He can’t see, he can’t speak he can’t eat, he can’t drink, he can’t move any part of his body. The only parts that he can move are his eyelids and some slight facial movements and that’s it.’

Britain’s Got Talent is on tonight from 7:30pm until 9pm on ITV.

MORE: Who is in the Britain’s Got Talent final?

MORE: Who is Britain’s Got Talent finalist and singing Chelsea pensioner Colin Thackery?


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more