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brock_lee t1_ix07w0y wrote

> She recited the alphabet until Bauby blinked at the correct letter, and recorded the 130-page manuscript letter by letter over the course of two months, working three hours a day, seven days a week.

I bet they also developed some shortcuts, too, like when the next word would be obvious: "Is the next word 'the'?" or a character name. "She asked Gwe..." "So, Gwendolyn, right?"


chumloadio OP t1_ix08ed9 wrote

Good theory. They also used a custom-ordered alphabet arranged by frequently used letters.


JBatjj t1_ix0fdnr wrote

Like a compression algorithm. Blink once quick for e, once quick and one long for a, two quick for r


F4L2OYD13 t1_ix0iwap wrote

what we aren't considering is how much blinking would need to occur to discuss and agree on that system


JBatjj t1_ix0yxgv wrote

Because you show a diagram at all times and the blinker has no choice but to use it...


F4L2OYD13 t1_ix2kkgr wrote

yes I'm sure he wasn't a part of orchestrating the system. They just realized they had a captive writer and forced a book on him.


Officer_Hops t1_ix19st1 wrote

To be fair it’s not like the blinker has to agree, they don’t have much of a choice.


zKarp t1_ix3bjkc wrote

He could just close his eye and fall asleep.


kytheon t1_ix0kjqu wrote

Like Morse code lol, would be faster


DMala t1_ix2nvlc wrote

That's always my first thought when this story comes up. In the same situation (assuming I could persevere at all) my first request would be for a table of Morse. The tedium of going through the alphabet over and over just seems like the torture.


drekwithoutpolitics t1_ix3nd2t wrote

I could see Morse being harder to get started and way easier to get discouraged if I’m already quite disabled and wanting to write a novel.

Someone mentioned they had an alphabet ordered by letter frequency, so I could see the two of them optimizing quickly.

Like, at the beginning of a sentence,

“S” blink

Ok… it’s not another S. “A…” no blink “E,” etc. as a simple example.


JBatjj t1_ix0z2sa wrote

True. Others would be even faster though


stoneman9284 t1_ix16ntz wrote

It says the recited the alphabet. That doesn’t sound like coded blink sequences.


JBatjj t1_ix17mc2 wrote

The wikipedia article says "26-letter alphabet according to the frequency of use"


stoneman9284 t1_ix18fgz wrote

Right. I interpret that to mean she recited the “alphabet” like a-e-s-t-etc instead of a-b-c-d-etc


JBatjj t1_ix3lies wrote

Oh ya, I agree with you. My comment was more what you would do if you actually followed a compression algorithm tree. Idk I was really high when I commented.


abanabee t1_ix1ct9r wrote

Yes! As a speech therapist myself, we put the alphabet in a grid based on letter frequency. Then you point to each row and then across the columns to get the letter.


PlaugeofRage t1_ix21zdi wrote

I would have thought a 5x5 array with e separate would be quick go row then column.


Careful_Yannu t1_ix28uw3 wrote

Honestly my vague memories of first year programming were suggesting a binary search (first half of the alphabet or second, first half of your subsequent selection or second) but a grid is much faster.


Schemen123 t1_ix2giwg wrote

Trees are much faster, they only need to store what's actually there.

A matrix only works better when its full.

Of course its way easier to understand


pcrcf t1_ix17pi7 wrote

Why not use Morse code?


SigmaGrooveJamSet t1_ix2185x wrote

Not a bad idea. People do sometimes use morse code in adaptive devices. Some computers have had straws that someone paralyzed from the neck could blow or suck on in morse code to type. But it typically isn't used for people with locked in syndrome for a number of reasons

1 any message system would have to be easy to learn for the user and his caregivers and family and friends to learn. An alphabet board can be learned in minutes but morse code could take weeks.

2 Sometimes people with locked in syndrome only have some of the muscles of their eyes fully functional and these can fatigue. Its easier to do one or two inputs for letters at the slower pace than morse code which would require rapid accurately timed blinks. Jean Dominique actually had the incomplete form and had some small eye face and neck movement as well as describing being able to wiggle his limbs in the book.

3 in some people with locked in syndrome the eyelid control is so poor that they cannot open or close their eyes fully. In this case the only movement they have that is reliably easy to see is looking up. It is extremely hard for even able bodied people to use this movement timed with morse code.

There have been improvements a knock code is most often used today. The letters are in a grid and the row is selected by saying the first letter then that row is read off. Also it gives time for the interlocutor to guess the word in between letters potentially speeding up the process.


anarchyreigns t1_ix293s3 wrote

And the most obvious deterrent to me is that it would be exhausting to blink out a sentence, one letter at a time, in Morse code. It would be much easier physically to blink “yes” to the correct letter as read out by his assistant.


OsamaBinFuckin t1_ix0q9l6 wrote

Or she wrote most/all of it but it would be unethical and illegal to claim it as his.

So she got smart.


WatdeeKhrap t1_ix2x2cv wrote

They did, there's a movie with the same name and they depict the process


Schemen123 t1_ix2gbgb wrote

Yep. you only need 5 blinks to define any letter and like autocorrect you only need a few letters per word.

Still a massive undertaking!


whatinthehell129 t1_ix09780 wrote

The movie is amazing too.


Crepuscular_Animal t1_ix14n8p wrote

One of the most fascinating movies I've seen and also one if the scariest. He was quite young, wealthy, glamorous, active, everything in his life was nice and happy, and then bam, in one second it all just goes away. Like he's transported to hell instantly.


Test_After t1_ix22oz2 wrote

Also, the movie highlights something the book didn't - he was in love with a woman who didn't/couldn't deal with the locked-in situation, and his amanuensis was his loving but unloved wife, who found out about the affair because of the accident. Awkward.

TIL That his publisher provided the amanuensis, and a ghost writer. And the director of the film decided to focus on the first wife and write out the current lover, who visited him fairly often actually.


Vocalscpunk t1_ix23v5r wrote

I thoroughly enjoyed it but found out after that the drama with the woman/ex wife was fabricated for 'good movie making' which tracks with Hollywood but feels unnecessary. It's a compelling story without added drama



patrick_ritchey t1_ix2x88u wrote

do you know where I cam watch it? It's been on my watch list for years but I couldn't find it


whatinthehell129 t1_ix32ww5 wrote

Strangely enough, SBS televised it. SBS is a station in Australia


patrick_ritchey t1_ix36mz5 wrote

thanks, I will try with a VPN to get to watch it


vondafkossum t1_ix3duay wrote

JustWatch says it’s available on Amazon in Austria. Don’t know if that’s an option for you. But you might be better off paying to rent it or hitting the high seas.


youjustjelly t1_ix0s1wm wrote

“Cerebrovascular seizure” actually means a stroke. Given he was locked in it was likely a brainstem stroke at the level of the midbrain. But there is not really an accepted medical condition of “cerebrovascular seizure” in neurology currently.


BottledCans t1_ix2f4oj wrote



youjustjelly t1_ix2hmjf wrote

Could be, hard to tell with the limited information in the article. But it seems like CNIII is involved as well if you read it as his eye movements are paralyzed.


tacosocks222445 t1_ix3748f wrote

indeed, locked in syndrome is associated with a stroke of the basilar artery


[deleted] t1_ix08cw9 wrote



pointlessopinion101 t1_ix0ehah wrote

The only fear i have.


FreddieArsenic t1_ix15jgt wrote

If I ever had this, I'd pray to god some idiot doctor declares me dead instead of staying like that.


cetacretin t1_ix17vdr wrote

I believe it's possible to have medical care preferences laid out in some legal form, along the same lines of a Do-Not-Resuscitate order. Like, if X/Y/Z happens and I'm incapacitated/vegetative, do not provide life support.

One of those things I really should get done. Shit can happen at any age or any time.


lying_Iiar t1_ix1jvr4 wrote

It can be done, my grandmother had one. I think it can be called a "living will."

The nurses just called it a DNR.

My father has told me many times that if he's ever a vegetable, I'm supposed to "find a way to off him." Like it's too much effort for him to get the fucking DNR, so I better risk murder.


Buscemi_D_Sanji t1_ix3tfy0 wrote

My favorite rapper has "do not resuscitate" tattooed across his forehead.

I'm not usually a fan of face tats, but I can get behind that one because it leaves no question.


dovetc t1_ix1dd1v wrote

"Oh, Michael you should have way more fears than that."


Apocrisiary t1_ix0pnu5 wrote

What Metallicas "One" song is about. People left so damaged from the war, some had no arms or legs, no vision or hearing. Totally isolated.


GlandyThunderbundle t1_ix0wcc9 wrote

Absolute horror.


ExtonGuy t1_ix0au7g wrote

I would have suggested Morse code, or some variant. Telegraphers used a lot of shortcuts for common words and phrases.


skccsk t1_ix0zo62 wrote

It probably wasn't effortless for the 99% paralyzed person to blink.


jjpenguins66 t1_ix0d1xd wrote

Right? Seems a better system but requires both learn it. Wonder why they didn't use that.


JBatjj t1_ix0fk8s wrote

Imagine they invented their own shorthand.


brock_lee t1_ix07mqs wrote

Just see this on Jeopardy? :)


chumloadio OP t1_ix082eo wrote

Thank you for the reply. Yes, that's where I learned about him.


CopperbeardTom t1_ix0v6df wrote

I love media that spurs self-education.


tkdch4mp t1_ix12gp9 wrote

I love all entertainment that spurs self-education! I've learned lot from video games and also quite a bit from movies/TV shows!


[deleted] t1_ix5ft6a wrote



chumloadio OP t1_ix5veuh wrote

Thank you for this reply, TigerBone. I'm glad I was part of this upward spiral.


bkconn t1_ix3muxf wrote

Go watch the movie!

Mads Mikkelsen is amazing.


Steel_Wolf_89 t1_ix14adh wrote

No thanks, I'd rather be dead.


argv_minus_one t1_ix4jkio wrote

About the only thing I'd be blinking is some variation of “kill me”.

It is cruel beyond words to keep people in that state alive. If ever there was a situation where euthanasia is clearly the right thing to do, that would be it.


TuckerCarlsonsOhface t1_ix0jkjd wrote

How did anyone know he wanted to write a book in the first place?


chumloadio OP t1_ix0jzsu wrote

Before his seizure, Bauby had signed a contract to write a book.


ElTontoDelPueblo t1_ix0zkqe wrote

He can write a book with one eye lid and I can't write an article with two frikin pan-sized hands


Von_Cheesebiscuit t1_ix1g6ad wrote

Fine, fine. Al you had to do is ask. Let me grab some paper. Ok, you ready?

A... B... C... um, I can't tell if your blinking. I think we're gonna have to meet up at a local coffee shop or something to make this work...


Dolly_gale t1_ix169eh wrote

His story was made into a decent film in 2007. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards (Oscars), among other distinctions.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The film follows him as he starts his rehabilitation. It's intercut with moments from his life before before his incapacitation as he reflects on them, so it's not all bedside footage. It does take some liberty with his story (his real-life girlfriend didn't react the way she was depicted in the film), but I still think it was a good film. Actually, years later it's one of those stories that I still think about from time-to-time, which is one of the best compliments I can give a film.


nmilosevich t1_ix3t496 wrote

How did she really react vs the film??


Dolly_gale t1_ix4ygon wrote

In the film, his girlfriend became distant toward him after he became disabled (he longs for her to visit him). In real life, she visited him.


dkdream21 t1_ix1gzcy wrote

Just wanted to say, the French word for “diving bell” is super badass. Le scaphandre :)


youtharcade t1_ix2lzyj wrote

Thanks. This is going to be my electro indie band name now.


Nojoke183 t1_ix1eu7f wrote

This picture was taken in '96. Why does it look like it's from the 50s?


microbesrule t1_ix21f4m wrote

Props to the assistant, too. That sounds like a gruelling task.


Amyloid42 t1_ix16dl7 wrote

Stroke. Not seizure.


dcohenmd1 t1_ix1hyd9 wrote

It wasn’t a seizure. It was a stroke.


edemac44 t1_ix12y2y wrote

Sounds exhausting


jonesy852 t1_ix1etkr wrote

It's not like he had anything else to do.


brentlymax t1_ix35q0o wrote

There is a great Venture Bros episode that references this titled "The Diving Bell vs. The Butterglider". It does a mashup of this story with Fantastic Voyage.


chumloadio OP t1_ix3vcjq wrote

Thank you. I love the Venture Bros. I will look for the episode.


monkeypox_69 t1_ix0yabg wrote

I guess you don't got much else to do at that point


[deleted] t1_ix0qaem wrote



LukeyLeukocyte t1_ix1xoeq wrote

It took a while for them to realize he was cognizant behind that one blinking eyelid. Once they realized he was awake they quickly devised a way to communicate. Once communication was established I am sure s lot of different discussions came up, including the book.


wecomeinpeacedoyou t1_ix21cc6 wrote

That would be crazy if they blinked at the same time and she had to say “i’m sorry, i didn’t hear you what was that??”


GoGaslightYerself t1_ix58fkg wrote

Didn't they do this on "Breaking Bad"? I could have watched ol' Hector ring his bell for weeks. RIVETING!


lying_Iiar t1_ix1hyce wrote

This would be way better served by even some simple algorithms.

Think how much time you would save if you even made just one modification:

The first prompt is: "First half of the alphabet?"


747ER t1_ix1uvjv wrote

They used a specialised alphabet order with the most frequently used letters first


lying_Iiar t1_ix2a6wu wrote

My intuition suggests it might still be faster to start with that question, but someone would have to run the algo against the most common words, or the book he wrote at least.


bohoish t1_ix20qc1 wrote

Read it. It is a cool book.


24cupsandcounting t1_ix2fxth wrote

I’ve often heard stories about paralyzed people who communicate through blinking. Why is it that blinking is often the only movement they have left? Has anyone ever been paralyzed to the point of not being able to blink? What would happen to such a person?


Crepuscular_Animal t1_ix2i2bx wrote

Eyes have different innervation than most parts of our body. Most of the body is controlled via the spinal cord, but the structures in the head, like eyes, are controlled via cranial nerves that come directly from the brain. There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves that are traditionally numbered from top down. Eye movement nerves are number 3, 4 and 6. If you got your connections disrupted on the level of, say, number 4, you still have some movement left in the eyes/eyelids, but can't move anything else in your face. The whole body is paralyzed, too, because the spinal cord / brain connection is off.

Some people are/were totally paralyzed, yep. There is some ongoing research on recognizing and helping such people. Doctors can scan for brain activity and use machines that interpret this activity as attempts for communication. They've actually made a brain implant that allowed a patient to ask for beer, curry and some music. It's amazing.


24cupsandcounting t1_ix3p62c wrote

Thanks for the information! It’s crazy what modern medicine can accomplish


funkyonion t1_ix2mzpw wrote

Jeez, at least Salamanca had a bell.


AvonMexicola t1_ix36q0a wrote

So weird I remember 1996 in color.


FrankieMcGigglefits t1_ix1k0ud wrote

Husband watched it with coworkers at his first hospital gig for TIRR. He was on a traumatic brain injury unit, so it was his bread and butter.


RedditMayne t1_ix2jtsy wrote

Oh man, that movie and its music broke my heart.


Neon-Nina t1_ix2ul6k wrote

And here I am with to hands and 10 fingers


FirstAidKilt t1_ix3kox8 wrote

If I remember there was also a similar thing with two characters from The Count of Monte Cristo. She would go down the letters of the alphabet In a dictionary I think, and then start going down the words under each letter. I wonder if this was some kindof accepted practice in France for communicating with people who couldn't speak or move


JMarcusM t1_ix3n583 wrote

Hope it was a short story.


BrambleWitch t1_ix40wai wrote

I read this book when it came out. Devastating. There is also a movie made of the book which I also saw. A true nightmare.


Mystic1989 t1_ix4801q wrote

What if they pretended to write it down but actually came up with their own book?


noccusJohnstein t1_ix4wugh wrote

How do we know that the assistant didn't write the book based upon intricate knowledge of the man and his works, and that she knew it would never be a success if she tried to take the credit?


chumloadio OP t1_ix51h8l wrote

I guess we're compelled to trust that some people are actually honorable, sincere, and have personal integrity -- especially in the context of helping someone who is going through an unimaginable personal challenge like this.


Zaber_fang t1_ix0xqh7 wrote

Would blinking Morse code not have been faster?


Von_Cheesebiscuit t1_ix1gh05 wrote

Probably not. Would require much more blinking with greater room for error. Likely it was a modified alphabet broken into sections for often used letters.


moleware t1_ix1s26f wrote

They had color photographs this dude's entire life. Why is this in black and white?


cosmorocker13 t1_ix1xtxt wrote

Should a great book and obviously short. I think I’ll read it tonight!!


UnmutualOne t1_ix245x1 wrote

Should have kidnapped him and taken him to Talos IV.


BubberRung t1_ix2ad3b wrote

That’s it. That assistant has the most boring job in the history of the world.


cc_manhattan t1_ix2d6k3 wrote

We should ask r/theydidthemath how long this would take!


FnkyTown t1_ix2de78 wrote

Or maybe she just wrote it for him?


Jadeldxb t1_ix1wd93 wrote

Or the assistant wrote the book.


STBadly t1_ix10cww wrote

Plot twist: He was just trying to flirt with her the whole time. Ends up writing a bestseller when all he really wanted was a kiss.


swimmer4200 t1_ix1rsu4 wrote

450 pages of "Kill me"


beebeereebozo t1_ix0zrbo wrote

Did he really? Sounds a bit like facilitated communication. Seems more likely that he painted the broad strokes and his assistant filled in the gaps.


OsamaBinFuckin t1_ix0qftm wrote

Many pages are illegible and incoherent, attributed to possible seizures he suffered.



yIdontunderstand t1_ix0gaui wrote

1952 - 1997 wasn't anything to do with his life span...

That's how long it took to write the book...


chumloadio OP t1_ix0jko1 wrote

He was born in 1952 and died in 1997. It took him and his assistant two months to write the book


pirmas697 t1_ix0nbed wrote

Having written a book, that is significantly faster than I would've assumed given his means of writing.


chumloadio OP t1_ix0o7nl wrote

Thanks for contributing to the topic. Yeah, I agree. I was surprised at the speed of completion too. But that's what the Wikipedia bio reports.