One of our recommended books for 2019 is The Blink of an Eye by Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard

THE BLINK OF AN EYE

A Memoir of Dying—and Learning How to Live Again


It was New Year’s Day. Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard, a young mother and scientist, was celebrating with family and friends when she was struck down with a sudden fever. Within hours, she’d suffered multiple organ failure and was clinically dead.

Then, brought back to the edge of life—trapped in a near-death coma from an acute case of bacterial meningitis—she was given a 5 percent chance of survival. She awoke to find herself completely paralyzed, with blinking as her sole means of communication.

The Blink of an Eye is Rikke’s gripping account of being locked inside her own body,

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It was New Year’s Day. Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard, a young mother and scientist, was celebrating with family and friends when she was struck down with a sudden fever. Within hours, she’d suffered multiple organ failure and was clinically dead.

Then, brought back to the edge of life—trapped in a near-death coma from an acute case of bacterial meningitis—she was given a 5 percent chance of survival. She awoke to find herself completely paralyzed, with blinking as her sole means of communication.

The Blink of an Eye is Rikke’s gripping account of being locked inside her own body, and what it took to painstakingly relearn every basic life skill—from breathing and swallowing, speaking and walking, to truly living again. Much more than an account of recovery against all odds—this is, at its heart, a celebration of love, family, and every little thing that matters when life hangs in the balance.

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  • The Experiment
  • Paperback
  • May 2019
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781615195718

Buy the Book

$15.95

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About Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard

Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard is the author of The Blink of an EyeRikke Schmidt Kjærgaard is a scientist, mother of three, and cofounder of Graphicure, a start-up company developing software solutions that empower patients to better understand their disease and manage treatment. She is also cofounder and CEO of the Danish Science Club, a mentorship network for children and young adults. She holds a PhD in science communication, with past positions as a postdoctoral fellow at MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge, UK, and at Harvard Medical School.

Praise

A Summer 2019 B&N Discover Great New Writers selection

“A highly personal, deeply affecting account of what it is to be yanked from a happy, well-ordered life and thrust into a sudden, unimaginable, terrifying darkness. Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard has done the impossible of putting into words an experience that would seem to be beyond expressing.” —from the foreword by Bill Bryson

“A true stunner, unbearably sad yet full of hope.” Booklist starred review

“A rich reading experience . . . . an inspirational story of beating the odds.”Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. In his foreword, Bill Bryson writes, “Rikke has done the impossible of putting into words an experience that would seem to be beyond expressing,” and many of the critical reviews echo that amazement of her calm, even humorous, yet terrifyingly detailed account of her illness (xi). Have you ever experienced that sense of composure during traumatic events, or known people who did?

2. Rikke is able to recall events from when she was dead and in a coma because of Peter’s detailed journals. “Writing kept him sane,” she states, but it also was key to her recovery, physiologically and psycho-emotionally (13). Discuss how this remove from her own experiences affects her outlook while in the hospital and rehab, as well as the tone of her writing.

3. Rikke’s children are deeply impacted by their mother’s ordeal, especially eight-year-old Daniel. How does he inspire Rikke to be “fearless” in her recovery and life post-hospital (144)?

4. There are many moments when Rikke’s progress seems to be derailed—by the amputation of her fingers, the infection in her sinuses, the watery eye that the doctor misdiagnoses as depression, etc. What motivated her to not lose faith in these moments, but rather to push through and get well?

5. Foreword Reviews claims that “this sharp and unselfpitying account has important information for medical professionals and loved ones about how to care for and support postcoma patients.” How is the doctors’ care for Rikke described? Have you ever experienced insensitivity from doctors, and what was your response? And on the other hand, have you ever received extraordinary care from a doctor, and, if so, to what do you attribute that extraordinary care?

6. In her Wall Street Journal essay, Rikke writes: “I owe my recovery to the non-medical professional who was my proxy: my husband . . . Every patient deserves and needs that kind of voice.” How has she used this book, the “Caregiver’s Checklist” at the end, and her company, Graphicure, to provide a voice for patients like herself? Have you ever been in a situation where you needed someone else to speak for you?