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The Blink of an Eye: What Dying Taught Me About Living

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Acclaimed by Bill Bryson as spellbinding and harrowing, the story of one womans dramatic recovery from life-threatening illness

At the age of 38, Danish scientist Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard is struck down by an acute bout of bacterial meningitis. Weeks later, she wakes from a coma in intensive care to find herself locked in, unable to show she is conscious except by blinking
Paperback, 227 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by The Experiment (first published May 31st 2018)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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On New Years Day, 2013, Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard went for a walk with her family along the river in their large Danish town. She lagged behind her husband, his friend, and the Kjaergaard children (aged 18, 14, and 8). Her legs were leaden, and she was unusually cold. Back at home, even a hot bath couldnt warm her. Within a few hours she was feverish, vomiting, and had lost control of her bowels. A night-duty GP came to the house, diagnosed flu, and prescribed an antiviral medication. Even if ...more
Jo Chambers
A moving true story of a Danish woman who came near to death with bacterial meningitis and was 'locked in' for a while, only able to communicate by blinking one eye. Incredibly she survived and has made a good recovery, although she has lost most of her fingers and her sight in one eye. I saw Rikke speak at the Hay Festival, and was struck by her calm demeanour and smiley face. She and her book really are an inspiration. A recommended read.
Sally Hanan
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book will likely make it into my book club rotation. I found it fascinating and hope others do too. Kjaergaard writes a memoir about how she suddenly contracted a bacterial meningitis, went into a coma, was locked inside her body unable to move, or even react after she woke up, the gradual ability to blink coming to her. She details her stay in the ICU, then her subsequent moves to other facilities and I found the science behind it, her details of her illness and recovery to be fascinating. ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kara B
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was riveted!! This book leaves you breathless and so inspired.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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.
Huguette Larochelle
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i win this book. wow , a view from inside a person in a coma and the detail of the struggle to get better . a courageous journey .
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 2019
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
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 ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Imagine a hellish infection coming out of nowhere and knocking you off your feet, almost killing you.
Then imagine being trapped inside your own body, unable to move, to speak, or even breathe on your own.
This memoir is frustrating, terrifying, illuminating and ultimately inspiring.
Would we all have the same strength?
Jill Johnson
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw the author talking at the Hay Festival last week and was amazed by this womans strength and positivity when discussing her illness and recovery. I read this book in one day and would recommend to anyone. A very strong woman , who together with the support and love from her family and friends came back from a near fatal illness. This book is well written by a woman who explains her story in a way that is both informative and without self pity. ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Isabeau Masse
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick read, but engaging and thought-provoking. As an ICU nurse, I appreciated the empathetic perspective of what the patients are experiencing when they are intubated, sedated, or suffering from neurological damage and cannot necessarily communicate.
Donna Hines
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, netgalley
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
Linda Jamieson
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely amazing. Very powerful stuff.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 4ws-2019-2020
The books content could have been a horror movie, but it was a memoir of Rikkes experience with death and recovery. Locked inside her body and unable to communicate desperately trying to tell her husband and care givers she was still here.
Peter, her husband, would be the person Id want to advocate for me if I was ever in this position. Knowing his wife so well, the minute nuances of her head and eyes triggered his reaction to the hospital staff which gave him hope and the will to encourage his
Charmaine Elliott
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
An exceptionally optimistic sounding audible narrator turned a potentially dreary offering into a lively narrative. I was shocked to discover how debilitating and devastating lupus can be. The road to recovery more so. But as a South African what shocked me most was the incredible medical care afforded to a sufferer. I have to say that with the Life Esidemeni event fresh in my mind an individual in this condition would be lucky to survive. I found the observations around differently ambled ...more
Simran Pahwa
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was a great look into what its like living through a coma state, and what life is like post-coma. Rikke does a fantastic job explaining her situation and everything she went through with great detail. Having the caregivers checklist following the end of the memoir was a great touch, and something I think everyone should check out if they have a loved one going through a similar situation. With that being said, this book kind of felt like it carried on a bit too long in some parts. I ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a small book that tells a big story about Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard, a young mother and wife, who within a day or so falls terribly ill with bacterial meningitis, ending up in Intensive Care for weeks. As she remains unconscious for weeks, it is her family that document what is happening to her and the struggles that staff have to keep her alive. Although this horrid disease changed a lot in her life, forcing her to relearn basics like eating and walking again, she was lucky to survive. ...more
Jan 31, 2020 added it
I enjoyed the insights this book provided though some of it was hard to take as I have recently spent 45 days visiting my husband in the hospital and caring for him in recovery as well as watching my mom progress from full great health to no mobility at all and almost complete loss of hearing and now loss of speech due to an undiagnosed illness. Rikke's reasearch and sharing of her coma experiences and hospitialization through her eyes and her family's eyes will, I hope, encourage some changes ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing

We take for granted who we are, but without memories we fade and if we lose control of the memories we have, we lose all sense of who we are. Lying there, unable to move, I had to figure out how to put myself back together and as my mind became stronger, I found that I could use my memories as building blocks; placing them carefully in the right order, one by one, I could remember my own personal history and provide the all-important key to my recovery.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a great quick read. It gives a unique perspective into the world of someone that has come out of a coma. I was struck by the difficulty in communication and how hard it must have been to fight when you cant tell people what you need. I cant imagine how mentally strong you need to be to keep sane through it all. It also offered advice we can all apply to our loved ones when they fall ill of anything. I would recommend adding this one to your list.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rikke did a commendable job of describing how she felf as she suffered through the process of her illness and recovery. A reader can almost feel her suffering. If there was anything missing it would be more on how she functions day to day since her recovery. She has accomplished much since her return to her new normal and I would like to hear learn more about that.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really wish I would have had this book available when my brother was dying and in ICU in an induced coma. This is a good read for anyone who has or is going through a potentially terminal illness and I am so glad she wrote it.
Katrina Beth
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be eye-opening and insightful. The author's voice was very clear and enjoyable to read. I did find it to be a bit repetitive at some points. Mostly in the conclusion. Overall, wonderful.
Celesta Tiner bainbridge
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dewey Decimal update --- 579.355 KJAERGAARD
Subtitle says: What dying taught me about living... to me it was more like: What being totally helpless in a coma taught me about living.
This book was eye opening, frustrating, easy to read, couldn't put it down and many other thoughts! I recommend this to anyone who has or will have to deal with a person in a coma. Her story brought to the forefront how much I personally take for granted on a daily basis.
On a practical side many uncomfortable questions
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Clear and concise memoir of a woman who had the ability to move her eyes but nothing else for several weeks. Fast paced and intriguing. Reminds us to be grateful for what we have today-blemishes and all.
Danita White
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another book about superbugs.....
Oct 23, 2019 added it
Intense yet hopeful. Not for the light-hearted. Even more compelling because it is an autobiography.
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