Eye Communication

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Meet my husband’s alter-ego: House.

You know, the television personality that he most resembles? The cane-wielding, grouchy, chronically-pained, egotistical, pill-popping, power-hungry, brainiac Gregory House (on Fox’s same named tv show).

Except that Professor X isn’t very power-hungry (usually shies away from it), nor is he especially egotistical. And I admit that he hides his grouchy-side quite well.

So, I guess they do not have a lot in common. But as a hat-tip to my husband’s love, I make a point of watching this one show every week. It is my only regular television.

This week’s episode, Locked In, gave me true inspiration for a blog post. I was going to link to some clips from the episode and talk about eye communication. I was going to link back to all my former posts on Augmentative and Alternative Communication. The post was going to rock.

But I discovered that youtube does not instantaneously put episodes up. And apparently people don’t put up pictures of eye communication either. Truthfully, other than a few journal articles (which are not especially easy to read for the public) there wasn’t much I could find on the internet.

For those who did not watch this week’s awesome episode, Locked In syndrome occurs when a person’s entire body is paralyzed (including mouth, facial movements, etc) but thinking and language processes remain intact. The person’s brain is literally locked-into their barely functioning body.

I spent 9 months studying Alternative Communication methods (AAC) and like House, I found the patient’s condition “fascinating”. A person with severe physical paralysis has a variety of ways to communicate, but most are unfortunately very laborious. These include:

  • blinking once for “yes” and twice for “no” (as in the House Episode)
  • using a Morse code blinking system
  • using a traditional alphabet with a communication partner (“Is it an A? Is it a B?…”)
  • using an adapted alphabet with a communication partner (“Is the letter in the 1st row? Is the letter in the 2nd row?”) where the vowels (most used in English) are the first letter of each row:

Photo from Univ. of Washington

Spoiler alert: the patient recovers. But Locked In Syndrome is usually considered to be permanent. One amazing individual who suffered this condition was Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of Elle magazine. In 1995, at the age of 43, he suffered a massive stroke and found himself to be paralyzed and speechless. In spite of extraordinary odds, he spent the next two years writing a book, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. He used an adapted alphabet system and laboriously communicated, letter by letter, to a communication partner.

Apparently, I was a bad intern in my AAC internship, because I never did read his book. And I never saw the movie, based on the book, that came out in 2005. But, this oversight will be rectified. Both the book and movie are now on my library hold list. And if either are as amazing as the reviews claim, I will surely blog about them one day.

Did you see House this week? What did you think? Have you ever thought about how to communicate with only your eye lids?

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  1. I can’t imagine being trapped in my body like that. And no, I didn’t see House.

  2. I saw it and was fascinated!! The fact that doctors can determine the patient is aware and ABLE to communicate baffles me. What a terrifying position to be in, but very interesting from a communication standpoint.

  3. Sooo funny that you posted about this! I have NEVER watched House in my entire life…and last week’s episode was the first! And, I was captivated! I couldn’t change the channel!

    It was hard to watch at times, because I put myself in that man’s position…and it would feel so helpless and scared….suffocating almost, ya know?

    Well, hope you have a wonderful Thursday!


  4. Okay, I knew there was a reason we loved Professor X! The husband and I both adore House – one of our favorite characters on TV now.

    That particular episode absolutely intrigued us. Thanks for more info on it.

  5. I didn’t see House, but I did see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Amazing movie, so moving. Enjoy it!

  6. That sounds way to freaky, I would not do well in that situation. I love that show but missed the episode.
    Now you got me interested in that book :0

  7. I had a friend who was quadriplegic and he started out blinking for where in the alphabet a letter was, which was so laborious for him that I don’t think he communicated much then. Eventually he moved on to eyeblink Morse code, or if he felt up to it mouthing buh/pah, which was easier to see from across a room. He also had a sensor hooked up that would let him tap a lever with his jaw to send Morse to his computer.

    I, too, was fascinated with the different options he had and aware of how brutal it was for him.

  8. This is so scary. I didn’t see it, but I’ve wondered how I would react if something like that ever happened to me.
    I’ll have to read the book.

  9. House is on hulu–and I am ashamedly addicted! I haven’t seen that episode yet.

  10. I missed this episode, but love the show! What a fascinating and absolutely horrifying condition … thanks for the great information.

  11. I saw somehing similar recently, but not on ‘house’. I also read a story written by someone who had recovered from this condition. Scary!!

  12. This episode is on my DVR. I can hardly wait to watch it!

  13. I love HOUSE, but I didn’t see this episode yet!! I couldn’t imagine communicating with my eyelids….


  14. We don’t watch frequently, but my daughter and I saw that episode and spent the whole time talking about how horrible it would be. I’ve been meaning to rent The Diving Bell and the Butterfly–thanks for putting it on my radar again.

  15. I have never heard of Locked in Syndrome. Sounds terrifying. That is incredible about his book though. I will definitely need to look into finding a copy. Loved that you blogged about this. Very interesting.

  16. Prentke-Romich has new technology out called ECO-Point. It’s an eye-gaze system that allows such people to use their communicative devices. I’m telling you, that company is on top of their game.

  17. I didn’t see house…but writing a book like that is unbelievable!

  18. Wow. I always learn so much from your blog. I wish I could watch House regularly–it’s a show I’d love to make time for.

  19. I just love House!
    Very interesting post with food for thought.

  20. I like that show as well but I always forget that it is on and miss it . . . there was a highlight of this disease on ER once (the redhead from SITC) played the character.

  21. Just wanted to let you know that after a few months “sabatical” I’m back! Hope you’ll come visit my blog again soon!

  22. You are hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. That was a really interesting episode. LOVE HOUSE!!!! Meatloaf is on next weeks show.

  24. Hey CC. Today was your day to post at 5 Minutes For Special Needs. Just want to make sure that you are still with us!


    hods 5 mom (@) aol (dot) com

  25. I have actually cared for a patient or 2 with this syndrome. As a critical care RN the patients are usually sedated and don’t communicate but I have watched them communicate a couple times and it is amazing!

  26. I thought it was a fascinating episode. I loved how they filmed it from the patient’s eye view and his thoughts. How scary was it that the first doctor was declaring him dead. The script was excellent.

  27. I saw the episode and loved it. I love the show, period. It’s one of the few shows that I watch.

    It reminded me of Metallica’s song “One” about the guy who can’t let his caregivers know that he’s in there. Their song was inspired by a movie from from the 70’s I believe called Johnny Got His Gun.

    I read some Oliver Saks, I’m thinking I’d like the book you mentioned. I’m going to see if I can find it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. We’re big House fans too! It’s actually one of my fears. I think it would be so scary!

    Did you see this week’s episode? So sad…

  29. I just realized it is on my DVR. I ghad better go watch!! I love House. I am a huge Hugh Laurie fan.

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