The Blink of an Eye: A Memoir of Dying―and Learning How to Live Again

Image of The Blink of an Eye: A Memoir of Dying_and Learning How to Live Again
Release Date: 
May 14, 2019
Publisher/Imprint: 
The Experiment
Pages: 
224
Reviewed by: 

“Families with loved ones who are in comas or are struggling to recover from the long-term effects of one, will find The Blink of an Eye jet fuel for inspiration.”

“They would simply wait for her blackened gangrenous fingers to fall off.”

A more compelling version of autonomous cannibalism, when the body starts to consume itself due to some existential threat, is not to be found. Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard’s personal journey back from suspected brain death through paralysis and into the land of the sentient is truly awe inspiring. Replete with horrific details of the attack on her immune system and body organs, she gives a calm somewhat detached accounting of her near-death experience.

Just as remarkable as the author is her husband, who provided herculean round-the-clock watchfulness and correctly interpreted the moment when Rikke emerged from the depths of her coma. His bedside vigil and the artful way he kept their children present and involved in her recovery should be considered important material for aiding patients recovering from a coma. Their children read to her and worked on homework in her hospital room, continuing a thread of normalcy in a harrowing situation.

So fearsome was her bacterial infection that her husband and children had to take a powerful antibiotic just to be in the same room with Kjaergaard. Sepsis is the clinical term when an infection over powers the immune system and starts to consume the body. Sepsis is one of the top four causes of death in the hospital. Pneumococcal meningitis was the culprit, causing the tsunami of myoglobin, which when controlled, battles unwanted interlocutors in the immune system. However, unchecked, it becomes toxic to the kidney and other organs. It turns out the spleen is vital to maintaining health as well.

“Organ death is the last stop on the bus to the hereafter.”

“The surgeon informed Kjaergaard that they would simply wait until her blackened gangrenous fingers fell off,” rather than pursuing an interventional surgical removal. The metaphor she uses to describe this moment is so apt, she felt like a “passenger in her own life.” The author’s science vocation informs the syntax of this book and science geeks will love the detailed explanations of C-reactive protein and other immune system functions.

Families with loved ones who are in comas or are struggling to recover from the long-term effects of one, will find The Blink of an Eye jet fuel for inspiration. At only a two hundred pages it is a quick read, either in Danish or English.