by Jean-Dominique Bauby, translated from French by Jeremy Leggatt, 132 pp, $20, New York, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
As neurologists we take care of many severely incapacitated patients, yet we have rare opportunities for real insight into how it feels to be a mind confined to a paralyzed body. When a former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine becomes the victim of a paralyzing brainstem stroke and is able to tell us about his life, we in the neurologic community need to stop and listen. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is an autobiography of one man's experience while confined to a nearly locked-in state. The 43-year-old Jean-Dominique Bauby communicates with the world by blinking to specific letters one by one as a special alphabet devised by his speech therapist is slowly recited to him. In the pages of this book he lets his "mind take flight like a butterfly" and proves to all that his "IQ was still higher than a turnip's."
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Arch Neurol. 1998;55(12):1587. doi: