Nearly five years ago, Jose Rodriguez Jr. of Aurora, Illinois fell victim to a catastrophic and rare condition that few survive. After suffering a stroke, Rodriguez had locked-in syndrome, which left him unable to do anything voluntarily aside from move his eyes. However, after years of therapy, Rodriguez regained enough movement and communication ability to tell his story to the Chicago Tribune.

In August 2013, Rodriguez suffered a particularly painful headache and felt numb in parts of his body. He still went to work that day, but the next day, his entire left side was numb and the pain was worse. He had suffered a stroke, which required a lengthy procedure to remove a blood clot. He went into a coma for nearly two weeks.

When he awoke, all he could do was move his eyes. Locked-in syndrome essentially turns its victims into prisoners inside their own bodies. They cannot move, speak or breathe on their own, but cognitive function is typically not affected. Rodriguez knew what was going on around him, but could not communicate outside of using eye movements to answer simple yes-or-no questions.

Though Rodriguez required feeding and breathing tubes, he still had feeling in his body. Nurses would pinch his finger, causing him to flinch, which was seen as encouraging. Rodriguez went through therapy to regain as much movement as he could; when he left the hospital, he could open his mouth again. He can now breathe on his own and move his right hand enough to brush his teeth and type on a laptop, one key at a time.

He also uses the Tobii eye tracking software to write emails and a series of fantasy novels he is working on. After years of therapy, Rodriguez can even stand and walk short distances on his own, though he still primarily navigates using a wheelchair. Last but not least, he can even say a few words again.