Man's Incredible Recovery From Locked-In Syndrome Stuns the Internet

Jacob Haendel, 32, has been recovering from both acute toxic progressive leukoencephalopathy (TAPL) and locked-in syndrome since 2018, documenting the process online.

In 2017, Haendel was diagnosed with acute toxic progressive stage four leukoencephalopathy, sometimes referred to as "chasing the dragon syndrome," after years of heroin use. In most cases, inhaling fumes created by heroin heated on foil causes the damage to the brain, leaving the individual struggling with movement.

Months later, he was admitted to hospital after frequently tripping over and struggling to eat or speak while at home. There he was transferred to the neuroscience intensive care unit. He was suffering from autonomic storms, in which the nervous system is essentially in overdrive causing full-body sweats, spasms, breathing issues and a heartbeat sometimes over 200 times a minute. These storms would last up to 12 hours.

Soon, Haendel was left in what is referred to as locked-in syndrome. Haendel could understand and hear everything that was happening, but was unable to move or communicate, leaving medical professionals unsure of his consciousness. This lasted months, before in June 2018 Haendel managed to slightly flick his wrist in front of a doctor. That's where his recovery began, gradually snowballing into using blinking to communicate, later using letter boards and eventually slowly learning to talk again.

Come spring 2019, he was speaking again and by September 2019 he was beginning to move out of his wheelchair with the help of others.

It's rare for someone to recover from either TAPL or locked-in syndrome, in fact he's the only known person to recover from stage four TAPL—let alone both. His recovery is a long and ongoing one, followed along by users online.

Through his Reddit and YouTube accounts, Haendel has been extremely open about the struggles and milestones he's reached. Just yesterday, he went viral on Reddit for an update of him doing a task in his wheelchair, gaining 76,000 votes in 10 hours.

Ten months ago, Haendel shared a video of him completing a recovery task while in his wheelchair. This time, he was able to complete it standing up. Although he struggles at first, with the encouragement of staff, he tries again and succeeds.

The post has been met with words of amazement and gratitude. "You're one of the most badass people currently alive. It's not enough that you're the only known case to be in recovery from stage four, aye? You're posting videos to inspire anyone else out there. Talk about having stones and not stopping," commented one Reddit user.

"Looking forward to you dunking a basketball next year. Keep fighting the good fight," wrote another user.

Three months ago Haendel shared a video of him trying out the Nike Flyease sneakers, which tie up themselves. In December he posted a video on his journey to moving out of full-time care and into his own apartment.

But his use of the internet to document his progress has also allowed Haendel to share a far more light-hearted side to it all too, one that isn't all Rocky reaching the top of the stairs-style moments. In September, he shared a video titled "The humor in relearning simple s**t," in which he hysterically laughs at himself attempting to learn to feed himself again, and spilling food down himself each time.

Similarly, he was asked what the "happiest" moment of being locked in was. "There were two healthcare professionals talking as if I was not in the room and one of them said I gotta tell you about my awkward hook up last night. It was humorous," he wrote.

Through Haendel's openness to share his unbelievable story, many have been able to learn about the process of recovery in cases like this, while Haendel has been able to brighten the day of many.

Newsweek has contacted Jacob Haendel for comment.