JEAN-DOMINIQUE BAUBY

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY: A MEMOIR OF LIFE IN DEATH

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The locked-in syndrome is a complication of a cerebrovascular accident in the base of the pons. The patient is alert and fully conscious but quadriplegic, with lower-cranial-nerve palsies. Only vertical movements of the eyes and blinking are possible. At the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was editor of Elle and a robust bon vivant, suffered such a stroke. After 20 days in a deep coma, he gradually regained consciousness. His right eyelid was sutured shut to prevent corneal ulcerations, he was fed through a gastric tube, he drooled uncontrollably, he breathed through a tracheostomy tube, his urine drained from a catheter, and his bottom was wiped by others. He felt as if he were trapped in a diving bell, but his mind was free as a butterfly. Bauby wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly solely by blinking his left eye in response to the reading of an alphabet, arranged according to the frequency with which each letter occurs in French (E, S, A, R, I,... W). A friend read off the letters, pausing when Bauby blinked. Letters laboriously became words, and then sentences.

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