Sunday, 23 June 2013


I have been re-reading Jean-Dominique Bauby's wonderful The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is a book blinked one letter at a time by a man, Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke at a horribly young age, leaving him "locked-in". I won't spoil the book by summarising it; it's worth reading for the beautiful prose alone.

But, of course, it's more than that. It's a reminder of the dignity of the human being. When they discover what locked-in syndrome is, most students say they would rather be dead. After reading the book most of them change their mind.

There's also a great film of the book, which makes several significant changes. Some of the factual details - like the number of children Bauby had - are wrong but it's a powerful and moving movie nevertheless. I'd definitely watch it first before showing your students - there is a potentially controversial scene set in Lourdes, for example - but be warned: it's a film that makes quite an impact. Here's the trailer:

It's also worth pointing out that Bauby was not alone in finding dignity in terribly difficult circumstances. Gary Parkinson, who used to play football for Middlesborough, has continued working for the club since becoming locked-in. Here's what his son has to say about his father's condition.

Another pretty amazing guy is DJ EyeTech whose website is well worth working your way through. To read about the experiences of these men is a humbling and uplifting experience.

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