I’m writing this with two hands, 10 fingers

Pause for a moment today, March 7, to think of Jean-Dominique Bauby. On this day in 1997 he had his book Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly) published. Two days later, at the age of 44, he died.

bauby.gifThanks to the film his story is well-known. The former editor of the French Elle magazine, he suffered a massive stroke at the height of his career and recovered only enough to move his left eyelid. He retained complete cognizance of the world around him but suffered what is called Locked-In Syndrome.

Eventually he and his therapists developed a system of communication whereby, while stepping through the alphabet, he would blink on arrival at the letter of the word he wanted to spell. Then on to the next letter, and then the next word, and so on.

By such painstaking perseverance a book was written — and a beautiful, affecting book it is. You should read it.

The next time I feel a whine coming on about how difficult writing can be, I’m going to think of Jean-Dominique, feel truly humbled and thank my lucky stars.

Then get back to the keyboard.

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4 Responses to “I’m writing this with two hands, 10 fingers”


  1. 1 verbivore March 12, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Hi, found you via Metaxu and am looking forward to reading more! I picked up a copy of Le Scaphandre et le Papillon a few weeks ago but haven’t had the pleasure to start reading yet. Will get to it soon!

  2. 2 proseparsed March 12, 2008 at 5:24 am

    I’m looking forward to writing more and following your blog, as well. Enjoy the Bauby! Greg

  3. 3 bellascribe March 27, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about Bauby. I’ve meant to read this for some time now.

  4. 4 Baby Favorite January 12, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I was just googling “Locked In Syndrome” because I was telling a co-worker about this editor’s story (and I wanted to get my facts straight). That’s how I stumbled across your blog.

    My brother suffered a traumatic brain injury 11 years ago, and although he is not “locked in,” he can not walk, talk, or even eat. He does, however, have the “luxury” of pointing to letters of the alphabet in order to communicate.

    Anyway, my point is, it’s refreshing to know there are others like you out there who can actually learn from others’ tragedies and be able to count their blessings, as a result. Sometimes I get angry when I hear people complain about how difficult their lives are; I instantly think of my brother and how he’d change places with any of them in a second. It keeps things in perspective, that’s for sure.

    Take care. 🙂


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