Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (TDBATB)

I've just recently changed my homepage from igoogle to "mynytimes"... and so have been reading a lot of the New York Times online. You can add/subtract whatever bits of the paper you find interesting/boring- once again ensuring you never have to read news you might get upset by, or opinion you might disagree with. (Part of the reason i cancelled my subscription to The Guardian Weekly International Edition).

Anyway, found a great article about Julian Schabel- artist cum director who has a new film based on "The Diving bell and the Butterfly". I have 2 copies of this slender book- both in hardcover and i haven't read either. It's written by a French magazine editor who suffered a 'locked in' syndrome after a brainstem stroke that rendered him mute and immobile. He was, however able to communicate with the movement of one eye (!) - and dictated his book in this manner.

I have always dreaded being buried alive- waking up face-to-face with the cushiony quilted purple silk lining that i imagine all expensive coffins have. You know- you have to bite the tip of your finger off in order to scrawl the words " i was still ALIVE" on the fabric. Imagine the horror of being confined in your chair on an infinite airline flight in economy class - multipled by a trillion. Imagine being COMPLETELY aware of the pain, and the 'gallows humour' of the ICU team on their rounds. Believe me- i know- i've been on them- working under a 5 foot genius Intensivist with a wit to rival the great S J Perelman.

BP: And how about cardiac? Any arrythmias overnight?
Self: A short run of SVT only-
BP: Short? SHORT? Around here we don't use that word. We say "petite", we say "gamine".. we say "lithe"... but we never say "short".

the whole day went on and on like this..

I have been waiting for the right time to read one of the books-but i've never been so unbelievably happy in my life that no neurological horror story could upset me.

So, when i read this great article from NYTimes about Julian Schnabel (FOOTNOTE: Schnabel? Schnabel! .. how do you do the Blog?Shlog! yiddish put-down when the word already starts with 'sch'?) about his new film TDBATB- i thought maybe i can stand to watch the film instead- in french, with english subtitles! The photo at the top makes it look like "Weekend and Bernies" .. "He's in a locked-in state but he's the life of the party!". But i don't think i will.

Yet, i did manage to read an article about a film about the book(s) so that's something i guess. It was a very well written article- and Julian Schnabel sounds like a fascinating guy- artist, director, millionaire married to a model. What else could you wish for? Except that his art is crap.


  1. Anonymous1:40 PM

    You should read the Diving Bell and the butterfly. It is a short and moving read. Unfortunately he died two days after the book was published. Or maybe for him, not unfortunately.

    When looking after patients who were comatose (or apparently comatose) I always spoke to them as if they could hear and understand me. That way if they could they felt treated with respect. Worth reading about the different types of care he was given just to make you a better doctor.

  2. Anonymous1:44 PM

    By the way I think the Weekend at Bernies picture is a bit off. I dare you to read the book and then post the picture.

  3. When speaking to 'conscious' patients i always speak to them as if they understand me but i suspect they don't. They start lookin at the ceiling (that's a bad sign) and i can tell they're thinking "mmmmm... chicken".


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