Jean-Dominique Bauby

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This summer I read a book that really inspired me and last night I watched the movie version. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the story of an incredible man named Jean-Dominique Bauby.

At 43, Bauby, who was a journalist and the editor of ELLE in France, suffered a massive stroke and woke up three weeks later in the hospital. He had locked-in syndrome, which meant his body was completely paralyzed but mentally he was fine.

What’s important to note here is that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was written entirely by Bauby. This seems impossible to most of us seeing as he couldn’t write or even speak. The only thing he could do was blink his left eyelid. So with the help of a transcriber and a frequency-ordered alphabet, Bauby wrote his memoirs and 200,000 blinks later it was complete.

Aside from being beautifully written and incredibly moving, the memoir is probably the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read. Any time I’m feeling discouraged, I think of him. He passed away in 1997, just a few days after the book was published. The next time I’m in Paris, I’ll visit him at the Père-Lachaise cemetery to thank him for his words.

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