The Blink of an Eye

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

This is such a fascinating account of what someone actually experiences when faced with a near-death or even, life-threatening medical issue. I am on the medical side of this, having treated people and dealt with families on the receiving end of potentially devastating news. There is not a good way for the medical community to train for this aspect of medical care, each situation is different and the person we care for is loved by someone. To read through someone's experience as essentially given up for dead and then in a locked-in state is interesting. I have treated people with this and other similar conditions, but to hear firsthand, after leaving acute care, what that looks like from their perspective is truly a gift. 
And the most glorious thing of all is, after the horror of the acute illness subsided, the insight that allowed her to feel that her life was enriched by this experience is just breath-taking. It feels like human nature would be to question, "Why me?" and sink into despair and yet for her it was a gift that allowed the focus of her consciousness to be on what matters. That is saintly. Beautiful.
Thank you for this ARC. It is wonderful and insightful.
#TheBlinkofanEye #Netgalley #TheExperiment
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Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard has it all: a devoted husband, Peter; three loving children, 18-year-old Johan, 14-year-old Victoria, and eight-year-old Daniel; a satisfying scientific career; and a sunny outlook that makes each new beginning a delightful adventure and serious challenges something to be met head-on.

As Rikke begins to tell her incredible story, she and the family—after spending happy years abroad practicing her and Peter’s professions—are back in Denmark. Following a New Year’s Eve party attended by some friends, the Kjaergaards are spending the first day of 2013 walking along a river near their home. As the children run ahead, Rikke suddenly feels too weak to keep up. By the time the family returns home, she is overcome by chills and fever. A Tamiflu prescription and a subsequent penicillin injection are ineffective. 

By the time paramedics get Rikke to a hospital, she has gone into cardiac arrest. Even though the first responders revive her, the patient’s body is failing. Tests determine the cause to be pneumococcal menginitis, which is usually blocked by a person’s spleen. However, doctors discover that Rikke does not have a functioning one; an illness that normally feels like a mild cold is running rampant. 

The extent of the damage becomes clear when Rikke begins to awaken from a coma. With no control over most of her body—she can only move her eyes—she discovers that the disease has left her with significant brain damage and a complete loss of short-term memory. Rikke and Peter quickly devise a means of communication: blinking in answer to questions and to spell out words. However, even the devastating realization that she has no control over any aspect of her person or her life does not stop Rikke from putting her characteristic determination to work. Bolstered by supportive family members and dedicated health professionals (and ignoring the negative prognosis offered by some), Rikke begins the arduous journey back to the land of the living.

Rikke tells her extraordinary tale with the artistry of a novelist and the precision of a scientist. Readers cannot help but share the frustrations and applaud the triumphs small and great that accompany her quest “to be with my children, to talk to them, answer them, play with them, walk with them, eat with them, read to them. To be their mother again.” Rikke relates all the details of her experience, including the sometimes disturbing realities, in language that does not sugar-coat or appall. This feat ensures that this heartwarming and heartfelt memoir is an appropriate, uplifting read for young teens and adults alike.
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I apologize. I tried but could not download the book. Therefore, I am unable so to leave an honest review.
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Very engaging and honest first-person account of having your life taken from you by illness and the difficulties of relearning all that is taken for granted. A brain locked inside a body that can’t communicate.
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This is such a well written story about Rikke’s horrible illness, how she struggled to recover, and her family coped.  Her story will give much hope to those struggling with major health problems.  Thank you Rikke for sharing your story, it is one that will inspire many and hopefully show the medical community that there is a voice needed to be heard for those who have the same illness.
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I loved this book. It wasn’t an easy read. The title says it all- one blink is all it takes to upset your life horribly and everyone attached to you! I am not usually a reader of memoirs but this book was so well written and the people and their reactions dead-on- it was wonderful. Thanks to NetGalley  and The Experience for allowing me to read and review this book!
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Pros: Wait! What? Yes, you will be saying this to yourself throughout the book. The very beginning will have you wondering why, what, where, when, whom, and more. I was emotional while reading and it's hard to get me there. However, this book will get right to it and you will keep the pages turning until you get an answer. You will root for some and roll your eyes at other things. I will not reveal a single word about it because it is that good. If you don't mind being shocked and wondering why bad things happen to good people, then this book is for you. 

Cons: The spouse background and reactions annoyed me, and I guess that's what needed to happen. I wanted him to be strong and use his educational background, but he flopped around like a wet noodle at first. I will not say more, so you have to read it to see what I'm referring to.
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This account of losing all consciousness, surviving a coma, and fighting to live is inspiring. Being a scientist herself, Dr. Kjaergaard provides accurate details and descriptions of her experiences. Those were preserved for her by her historian husband, also Dr. Kjaergaard who wanted to save the timeline for her.

Although you might assume she could get very technical, she writes in truly relatable language and freely shares the emotional toil she can observe in those around her.

Understandably, this is her story of a harrowing experience. However, there are a few times when I wished for a word or view from one of family members.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to preview this book!  I typically find this type of non-fiction of interest, but the author's writing style (or perhaps the translation) did not hold my attention.  I abandoned this about a third of the way through.
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In the blink of an eye everything can change.  One moment your life is moving along, going through your normal routine, living your life.  Then you blink.  What once was is gone and you are plunged into an unimaginable nightmare that you can't wake up from, quickly becoming trapped inside your own body, the only movement that you can control is a blink.  It sounds like a scene from a psychological thriller but this was realty for scientist Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard on New Years day in 2013.

The whole day Rikke had been feeling off but she chalked it up to the New Years Eve festivities from the night before but as the day wore on Rikke got worse and worse.  Her doctor was called to the house later that evening and she was diagnosed with the flu but her symptoms went from bad to worse at an incredibly rapid rate.

She couldn't get warm no matter how many blankets were piled on her, every bit of light pierced her eyes like needles, and her fever was increasing and then dropping at rapid rates.  Rikke couldn't hold anything down and couldn't control anything coming out of her body.   By morning, everything that was coming out of her body was thick and black.  When she started to become paralyzed her husband and doctor knew this was a serious situation and she was rushed to the emergency room.  If they would've waited any longer Rikke would not have survived.

The Blink of an Eye is Rikke's point of view during the entire horrific ordeal that completely changed her life.  When Rikke was 20 she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE.  She believed she had her disorder under control but all it took was one attack of bacterial meningitis to almost kill her.

You can feel Rikke's scientific background come through the pages, as well as the anguish and heartbreak that she felt.  There are parts that were hard for me to read and brought tears to my eyes.  I cannot even begin to imagine what Rikke and her family had to endure.

Though Rikke has a lot of battle scars, she lived to tell the tale which is a miracle in and of itself.  I closed the book thankful for my life and felt empowered to face the medical issues I am currently facing.  If Rikke can fight so can I!  Painful, yet so powerful - The Blink of an Eye is a must read!
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A great read-alike to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Bauby, this memoir takes us through the illness and recovery of the author, part of which involved suffering the horrors of locked in syndrome. Able to communicate only through blinks, Rikke watched as her husband and children visited and cried, as her fingers slowly decayed from gangrene, and as nurses turned and moved her, sometimes causing pain in her limbs that she could do nothing about. Through it all, she learned how important a solid support structure is and how much her family meant to her. It was honestly a bit longer than it needed to be and focused less on the medical aspects and more on her personal growth and inspiration, which wasn't as interesting to me, but it was still really good.
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A return-from-the-dead...

This is the memoir of Danish scientist Rikke Kjaergaard who in 2013 suddenly became ill.  Rikke was recklessly diagnosed with the flu. It was way more serious than flu. She was sent home to recuperate, but the next morning  it was apparent that something more serious was happening in her body. After being rushed to the hospital, she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and declared “clinically dead.”

As you read, you will experience great empathy for her husband and children, also suffering through this long ordeal. Her family earned sainthood in my eyes. As the author recounts the months she spent in various stages of hospital recovery, Rikke  states “all parts of my body were fighting each other. It was a battle of multiple foes and no allies.” 

But Rikke is a “fighter” and she drew on all her resources and resolve to regain a semblance of a normal life. 

To share this chilling event, she relied on the notes and documentation her loving husband provided to help reconstruct the period when she was in a coma. She describes the blur of awakening, trying to communicate with blinks, and relearning just about everything: how to breathe, how to swallow, and even who she was. It took months before she could take her first step or eat on her own. She survived the ordeal with only one digit, her thumb. The others lost circulation and were removed. This is a story in itself as she describes the horror  she endured watching her fingers die and pretty much drop off leaving her with  only one unimpaired digit.”

Yes at the end Rikke says, “I knew my life had changed for the better.”
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A life altering experience has just been condensed into nothing more than 'The Blink of an Eye.'
You cannot imagine unless placed in someone else's shoes what it must feel like to be given a 5 % chance of survival much less to only communicate by way of blinking an eye.
The horror that erupts internally yet without a voice to speak is a frightening chance.
To have it all begin with bacterial meningitis which then leads to a coma and near death is beyond anyone's comprehension.
This is a story that must be told as it's a story about the strength and will to survive.
The courage to speak out and tell her story is so beneficial to the medical community and beyond that I'm eternally grateful.
In fact, this past year I too was struck down with acute bronchitis (every yr in winter for past several years w/o explanation). This year I decided enough and had the doctors (which I replaced with new ones) check all records and xrays. The chest xrays showed I had scarring on left lung (pleura) with the pneumonia. After all this was over I had progressed downward into difficulty breathing which then led to Raynaud's Phenomenon in left thumb which turned ice cold and blue. I was rushed (stat) to vascular surgeon who began to rule out any heart or blood circulation issue. Upon a battery of test including a bubble echo, echocardiogram, CTA angiogram and more I learned that I had intermediate suspicion of throat cancer and had FNA biopsy for throat cancer on Valentine's Day. This turned out thankfully to Benign but it was so massive and solid (3cm) in a 5 cm left lobe location that it'll more than likely need to be removed. Might I add that I also had a back issue that has been debilitating and chronic for years since teenager. I had that checked around the same time as the above. I raced myself to ER after having chronic pain with temp leg paralysis while volunteering feeding others with frozen turkeys over Thanksgiving. This led to xrays of back which led to a PA noting inflammation and nothing more. The very xrays were taken to spinal specialist in which it was determined DDD w bilateral facet athropy plus other issues not yet determined in need of MRI. That MRI will be done in three days from today's date after completing the 6wks of physical therapy.
The moral of this as well as the author's story is that you are your best guide. Do not allow anyone to tell you there's nothing wrong when you know inside there is and never settle for less than you deserve.
You only get one shot at life so make it a good one!
Always make sure you have qualified professionals working upon you. I know from multiple times now that I had physician assistants tell me or my family nothing was wrong when either there was or they misdiagnosed and said there was when there wasn't.
The healthcare field is being filled by those who are not as qualified , who barely passed their med exams, and being replaced with the younger generation.
In many instances it's that skilled, long term experience, and wealth in age that is needed for accurate results.
Sadly the older generation and highly skilled doctors are being pushed out based on greed and lower salaried work and are taking early retirements. 
Make sure you do your homework.
In one case my older daughter was told she had scoliosis of the spine at her prime year in high school including varsity on two sports. She was afraid to play sports and further and I was petrified as her parent. It turned out the P.A. was wrong it was merely a growth spurt.
In another instance I was told inflammation of my back and nothing more. In fact upon physical therapy treatments I was told everyone has what I have in their mid 40's it's merely old age and they could pick anyone off the street with the same. I was floored as my pain was severe and wasn't an overnight sensation but over 20 yrs of pain for which I had received weekly chiro treatment. This was noted as the DDD with bilateral facet atrophy and I'm sure they'll find upon doing the mri it's pinching on my spine and causing the paralysis. All of these earlier diagnosis except for latter was done by P.A.'s.
My son too was born with vater syndrome. We just had been removed from his SSI/SSP by people not knowledgeable of the health care profession. It was so bad they had his school fill out questionnaires about his medical condition he's had for 18 yrs. Of course, needless to say they knew nothing. His was internal skeletal abnormalities including grade 4 and 2 kidney reflux, stomach reflux, twisted spine, esophageal atresia and much more. The word Vater Syndrome stands for V-Vertebrae, A-Anal, T- Trachea, E-Esophageal, R-Renal which means he had a problem in each area.
Please make sure you keep fighting for what you need as our world is changing and sadly not for the better.
Healthcare is now a one and down and you're out. There's rarely any follow up or checks and balances. It's a money maker. 
You are your best decision maker.
Believe that!
Thank you to Rikke for her courage and God Bless her on her continued health. Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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Received a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. 

A touching memoir of a brilliant woman who was affected by a vicious bacterial infection. With the love and support of her family, she learned to appreciate life again. It takes true emotional and mental strength to relearn everything and grow from the experience.
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A young mother and academic is torn from her life in an instant and teeters on the brink of death in this raw and horrifying account of Kjaergaard's climb back from the grave.  What makes this book so compelling is a combination of the familiar patterns of mundane life paired with the ghastly and frightening details of the illness which caused the author to literally mummify and wait helplessly for her blackened fingers to wither and fall off, while only being able to communicate by blinking her eyes.  In this account of strength and resilience, we join Rikke in facing unspeakable fear and fight with her as she summons inexhaustible reserves of strength and human spirit to retake control. A read that will cause you to pause and give thanks for all of the little things that we expect and forget to treasure in our lives.
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The moving story of how the author fought her way back from a life threatening bacterial infection. She brought herself back from the brink and used her experience as a means to help others. It's important for there to be more awareness of the dangers of streptococcus pneumonia infection as well as well as a more complete understanding of what it means to experience locked-in syndrome.
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A raw and painful account of life, near death and how one woman experienced being in a coma. I found The Blink of an Eye to be honest and uplifting account of family, resilience and hope.
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Put some time away for this book. It has all the good reading a book can hold. So many feelings!

Can't say enough great about this. Read it today!!

Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this fabulous book.
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An excellent view into what it's like to almost die and then slowly feel your way back into living, albeit a different kind of life--harder but richer. Rikke skips nothing. Almost in a day-by-day account, she talks about what it's like to be in pain, to be treated like a thing by medical professionals vs. being treated as a person with emotions and comfort, and the struggle to try to find the way forward and persevere.

As a former nurse, a lot of her accounts felt familiar, but it certainly made me more aware of the finer details of being confined in a bed; unable to move, talk, or even breath without assistance. And yet she made it through and to this day is fighting back by empowering others and making lives better. 

This book is gutsy and authentic. Give a copy to anyone struggling to find hope while watching a loved one in medical turmoil, but also recommend it to any health professional you know.
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