I am absolutely paralyzed. Only my heart continues to beat and my lungs to breathe. The physical sensations — heat, cold, pain –are also very much with me. And my senses — sight, touch, hearing — are intact.
But as for movement, none. None whatsoever. It is as though my body were encased in cement, except for my head. I am no longer able to lift a finger, even to make the simplest gesture, such as scratching my ear. And though I understand, I cannot speak. I am like a well-preserved mummy, minus the bandages. I have even lost the newborn’s capacity to swallow.
My brain? It functions exactly as before!
In America, this rare condition is called locked-in syndrome. The description is apt enough, with the difference that the walls of this prison have large windows without any bars, through which all the sounds of life can enter. Those felled by locked-in syndrome rarely survive.
Philippe Vigand, Only the Eyes Say Yes: A Love Story, p. 4
[Note: this is the second installment of what I am planning to be an on-going series of posts on the phenomenology of locked-in patients as told through their own words.]