By Charlotte Nisbet
A man who was struck down with a rare condition that left him unable to speak has re-learned to talk – to tell his wife that he loves her for the first time in a decade.
Personal trainer James Sutliff, 33, was struck down with neurological condition Dystonia in 2008, which left him with balance problems and unable to speak properly.He’d been dating Samantha, 31, for just six months when he was struck down by the condition overnight – which is believed to have been caused by a rugby injury.
And when the pair married in 2013, he still struggled so much with his speech that he didn’t feel able to stand up and toast his new bride – or tell his friends and family how much he loved her.
Now, though, after nice years of hard work, James has had enough speech therapy that he is finally able to speak and be understood – and has finally told his wife that he loves her for the first time.
Samantha, from Queniborough, Leicestershire, said: “James tells me that he loves me every single day, and after his recent speech therapy, he has found the confidence to talk in front of friends and family.
“We now want to renew our vows so James can say his groom’s speech for the first time.
“I understand 95 per cent of James’s speech now but thanks to his therapy, he has learnt how to speak more slowly and be understood more easily. “He developed Dystonia nine years ago, we’d only been dating for six months but I knew we’d get through it together.
“Doctors have suggested his condition started due to years of playing rugby but it’s never been proven.
“James’s muscles can spasm and contract – something Botox injections have eased.”
James began his most recent speech therapy in June 2016 and has since come on leaps and bounds.
He added: “It has been amazing being able to say ‘I love you’ and letting Samantha know how much she means to me.
“I was desperate to say our vows the first time at our wedding but it wasn’t possible.
“On the outside I look normal but as soon as I start speaking, I struggle to say anything.
“My speech has massively improved already and after every session I feel myself becoming more confident.”
James awoke one morning in 2008 feeling unwell and was suddenly battling muscle spasms across his body.
He was terrified but it wasn’t until 2012 that he was diagnosed with Dystonia.
James said: “When I woke up with slurred speech, I put it down to tiredness, but when my movements and speech became affected, I went for tests.
“My thumb started to curl inwards and became stiff.
“I had tests for stroke and viruses, as well as CT scans but everything came up normal.
“I was almost a recluse before I found fitness and decided to become a personal trainer.”
James is hopeful his speech will continue to improve and the pair hope to set a date to renew their vows in the next few years.
He added: “I cannot wait to share our special day all over again.
“Four years ago I hadn’t accepted my Dystonia as much as I have today.
“We’ve waited a long time to find the right speech therapist as so many felt I was a lost cause.
“I’m so thankful to have the right therapy and after all this time, I feel like my voice is coming back.
“I would go quiet in social situations but now I have the confidence to speak out.
“It will mean the world to me to be able to tell everyone how much Samantha means to me.
“She is my rock and I tell her every day how beautiful she looks and that I love her.
“As my speech improves I’m sure I’ll start complimenting her even more.”