Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There But For the Grace of God

     In the midst of all my grumping and groaning and feeling sorry for myself concerning this current medical crisis, I try and remember there are others who are lots and lots worse off than we are. We have all sorts of resources to deal with medical problems and besides, we don't even know for sure what we're looking at yet, so why should I fuss?
     Here's an interesting story that helped to bring me up short in the midst of all these problems: a couple of nights ago, the teen-age grandson who, with his mom, lives in the same house with us, was in it up to his neck. He had got home without the book which had his assigned reading in it. Uh-oh. Big Trouble!
     So I rushed in and downloaded the book onto my I-Pad so he could get his evening assignment done.
     Okay . . . next day I decided to get my money's worth by reading the book myself. After all, it was fairly short. Turns out, I'm really really glad I did. And I highly recommend the book to any of my readers (those of you who aren't already familiar with it.)
     The name of the author is Jean-Dominique Bauby and the book is entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and it is an absolutely fabulous story.
     Bauby suffered a stroke at the age of 43, just at the height of a successful career, that immediately launched him into a world totally opposite of the one with which he was familiar. When he came to his senses the only method of communication he had left was the deliberate movement of his left eyelid. Nothing else in his body functioned without some kind of artificial aid or human manipulation. In addition he was to experience constant pain for the rest of his life.
     He was diagnosed with what is known as "Closed-In Syndrome" or, as he describes it in the book, what felt as if he was enclosed inside a diving bell in a vast sea where there is no movement, no control, no communication. All remaining were the butterflies of his mind.
     The syndrome is at least well enough known that there was an established method of communication that could, over a long period of time and with a lot of pain, be taught. This method uses the alphabet and Bauby learned to indicate each letter with the movement of his left eyelid as an interpreter took down dictation.
     The end result (and I haven't found out just how long the whole episode took, from stroke to his death) was the 'writing' of this book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly', which was published in France two days before his death.
     So, (1) I'm going to quit my belly-aching about a treatable situation and (2) I'm going to try and improve my writing. If a man in this condition can produce a book of this quality I'll be derned if I quit!
     Read the book. You won't be sorry.


  1. Sounds like a good book (though sad). I find the thought of being in that condition terrifying. Thanks for the rec!

  2. Betty, it's so great to meet you through Pennie James and I'm so glad that you introduced me to your blog. This is such a pertinent post for me as I always appreciate the reminder of how grateful I should be for all that I have! Thanks so much for the book review and recommendation!

  3. Hi Betty, This is such a moving and amazing story. I would go so far as to say that Jean-Dominique Bauby's story will not only make you see the world in a new way, but also change your life. Thank you for sharing!