The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

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Jean-Dominique Bauby was 43 when he suffered a massive stroke that resulted in “locked-in syndrome.” He was only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. This is his book.

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And in truth I would have been pleased to trade my yellow nylon hospital gown for a plaid shirt, old pants, and a shapeless sweater — except that it was a nightmare to put them on. Or rather to watch the clothes manipulated, after endless contortions, over these uncooperative deadweight limbs, which serve me only as a source of pain.

Like the bath, my old clothes could easily bring back poignant, painful memories. But I see the clothing a symbol of continuing life. And proof that I still want to be myself. If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere.

And then one afternoon…, an unknown face interposed itself between us. Reflected in the glass I saw the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde. His mouth was twisted, his nose damaged, his hair tousled, his gaze full of fear. One eye was sown shut, the other goggled like the doomed eye of Cain. For a moment I stared at that dilated pupil, before I realized it was only mine.

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