In the blink of an eye

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(With the subject of this book being medical, the review was done by Dr. Iain Corness)

If you want an uplifting story, then “In the blink of an eye” is probably one of the most dramatic personal fights against enormous odds that you will ever read.  Author Peter Coghlan finishes the sometimes harrowing tale with the caveat “Remember, miracles can happen.”

Coghlan was a young British lad, ex-Army, a fit bricklayer, who was suddenly struck down with a massive stroke, ending up in what is called the “Locked-in” syndrome.  This is a condition in which a patient is aware and awake but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.  So for all intents and purposes, the patient is in a coma, but is actually awake, but ‘locked in’ his or her own body.

This was Peter Coghlan’s situation.  Active one minute and suddenly the next minute a living corpse.

He wrote the book, as a chronicle of his rehabilitation, hoping that it might stimulate others in a locked-in diagnosis.

The book is written with alternating chapters between recollections of his past life (which included surviving a Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer against all odds) and the realization of the enormity of being locked-in in his current life.

Since the casual bystander can only see a non-responsive body, people will then tend to disregard the “unconscious” victim.  Coghlan describes overhearing people talking about him with, “I can only get snatches of their conversation, words like basilar, pons and, more frighteningly, ‘vegetative’ and ‘locked-in’.  When I hear these terms, their voices get lower and I can tell they don’t want me to hear them.  Only they don’t know if I CAN hear.”  He goes on, “Some nurses are really good, chatty and pleasant, but one or two act as though I didn’t exist, not even bothering to look me in the eye, as though I was just some object, an animal carcass with no feelings.  But I can feel; I do feel; I feel everything, from the aching of my head to the tortuous spasms in my twisted hands and feet.”

He describes “ … hating the nights, long, silent deathly nights when I don’t know whether I’ll survive until the dawn.  You’d think when you can’t move that nothing could happen – but that’s not true.  When you can’t move, anything could happen.  My trachea gets blocked so I can’t breathe.  Yet for sheer unmitigated horror, nothing, nothing I’ve ever encountered compares with being locked-in!  Nothing even comes close.”

However, he managed through perseverance, to walk out of the hospital six months after admission, holding the hand of his fiancée (whom he later married in Thailand).  “For anyone who’s going through this, I can only encourage you to stay strong, be positive and never give up hope.  And, as a former atheist, I have come to believe in God and in anything that gives you hope and comfort.  Remember, miracles can happen!”

“In the blink of an eye” is available through Amazon.com as an e-book or paperback.  I can wholeheartedly recommend this book.  Reading it is a humbling experience.