LOADED FOR DUCK
"On top of the various discomforts that accompany lock-in syndrome, I suffer from a serious hearing disorder. My right ear is completely blocked and my left ear amplifies and distorts all sounds farther than ten feet away. When a plane tows an ad for the local theme park over the beach I could swear that a coffee-mill has been grafted on to my eardrum. But that noise is only fleeting. Much more disturbing is the permanent racket that assails me from the corridor whenever they forget to shut my door, despite all my efforts to alert people to my hearing problems. Heels clatter on the linoleum, carts crash into one another, hospital workers hail one another with the voices of stockbrokers trying to liquidate, radios nobody listens to are turned on, and on top of everything else a floor-waxer sends out an auditory foretaste of hell. There are also a few frightful patients. I know some whose only pleasure is to listen to the same cassette over and over again. I had a very young neighbour who was given a velveteen duck quipped with a sophisticated detection device. It emitted a reedy, piercing quack whenever anyone entered the room, in other words twenty-five times a day. Luckily the little patient went home before I could carry out my plan to exterminate the duck. But I am keeping it in readiness: you never know what horrors tearful families may bestow on their young. However, the first prize for eccentric neighbours goes to a woman patient who emerged demented from a coma. She bit nurses, seized orderlies by their genitals, and was unable to request a glass of water without screaming 'Fire!' At first these false alarms had everyone dashing to action stations; then, wearied by the struggle, they ended up letting her yell her fill at all hours of the day and night. Her antics gave our neurology section a heady cuckoo's nest atmosphere, and I was almost sorry when they removed our friend to yell 'Help! Murder!' elsewhere.
Far from such din, when blessed silence returns, I can listen to the butterflies that flutter inside my head. To hear them, one must be calm and pay close attention, for their wingbeats are barely audible. Loud breathing is enough to drown them out. This is astonishing: my hearing does not improve, yet I hear them better and better. I must have the ear of the butterfly."
--Jean-Dominique Bauby from The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly, France, 1997