Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two Skills One Should Acquire in Case of Locked-In Syndrome

 There are two important things you need to know in case you ever fall victim to something called, “Locked in Syndrome.”

What is Locked-In Syndrome, you may ask? Well it’s the unfortunate situation where a person due to an accident, stroke, overdose, etc is paralyzed. He also loses his ability to communicate. The worst thing, though, is the mind is fully functional and aware during this time. The person who has Locked-In is basically a prisoner in his or her own body without sight, hearing, smell, or an ability to speak or move. The only thing they can really do is blink their eyes or breathe.

The first time I ever thought about Locked-in syndrome was when I was a child and just happened to watch a music video countdown when Metallica’s One video came on.  Those of you who are familiar with the song know it is an anti-war song and the end tells how a landmine in a war “has taken my sight, Taken my speech, Taken my hearing, Taken my arms, Taken my legs, Taken my soul.”  In the music video there are doctors standing around a patient without arms or legs, but he is somehow sending out Morse Code.  The code is asking for the doctors to kill him, please.  I was sort of traumatized by this video ever since and have always hoped I don’t ever end up in a similar situation.  Watch it here:

I thought about this video again today.  So looked it up and watched it, and learned that the patient in the video would classify as “locked-in,” thus prompting me to research Locked-In syndrome.  Learning the condition made me want to figure out things a Locked-in person could do with all of that spare time.

On the bright side, I learned that Locked-in is pretty uncommon. It will more than likely never affect anyone ever unless he is gravely injured or has a massive stroke. Nevertheless, it is not hard to be fully prepared for this uncommon situation and learn the skills required.

The only two skills one would really need to know are communicating via Morse Code and Lucid Dreaming.  Assuming all of your medical needs will be taken care of, the only thing a Locked-In patient must worry about is how to communicate and what to do in his spare time.   Of course, both are pretty cool skills to have in non-Locked-in life as well.

Morse code is relatively simple to learn.  I just did it this morning.  It is basically a series of long and short dits and long dahs that each correspond to a letter.  I’ve been spelling things out all morning after memorizing the dit dah combos and then putting them together into words.

Until today, the only Morse code I knew was the international distress signal, SOS. I learned that in college when I was an avid hiker.  SOS is probably the easiest Morse code signal to learn and perhaps the most important.  It is three short dits corresponding with an S, three long dahs which are O, and then three short dits  (S) again. It can be communicated through light, sound, blinking, tapping, honking, etc. S would sound like, dit-dit-dit and O would be dah-dah-dah.   Each dah lasts as long as three dits when communicating via Morse code. 

All morning I have been walking around my house dit dah-ing away at the Morse code alphabet.  For example, my name spelled E-I-L-E-E-N-E is dit Dit-dit Dit-duh-dit-dit dit dit duh-dit dit.  Each “e” is merely one dit.

So if you are ever trapped as a prisoner in your own body, the easiest and only way for you to communicate is through blinking or breathing Morse code.  Upon further research I found that it is the primary means of communication that doctors have with their patients who are Locked-in.  Some patients actually lead a very engaging life and have careers, all because they know Morse code. Learn it here:

In fact there is a former major league soccer player who has been “locked-in” for years, but has a job as a soccer recruiter who watches soccer players on film. He then communicates his impressions of the players to coaches via Morse code.  They decide whether or not to recruit the players based on his impressions.

Learning how to lucid dream is the second important skill one should obtain in order to lead a pleasant life while Locked-in.

Another line in One by Metallica is “Can’t tell if this is true or a dream.” Which brings me to my next skill one needs to know before falling victim to Locked-in syndrome.  That would be Lucid Dreaming.

Knowing how to lucid dream is crucial in case you are ever locked-in.  It’s really the patient’s only means of entertainment should he also be blinded by the condition.  Minds are fickle things and if you know what you are doing, you can just go on a magical adventure in your head for the duration you are Locked-In.  Most Locked-In patients are stuck for life, so knowing how to properly lucid dream is like having a free pass to do whatever the heck you want—in your head.   

Lucid dreaming occurs when your mind is fully aware during your dream.  A lucid dream can go on and on and on.  A locked-in person can dream that he or she is out in the real world doing fun things and their bodies will actually feel as though they are doing them in their dream-like state.

I can actually imagine what the locked-in patient must feel like. For the past couple of years, I’ve had something called “sleep paralysis” very occasionally.  It is a phenomenon where you lay down to go to sleep but sometimes your body falls asleep before your mind, so your body is paralyzed but your mind is fully awake. 

The first time it happened to me I was terrified but after a while, I was able to will my body awake after not knowing what the heck was going on.  I looked it up, and learned what it was and that it is sort of common.  A few months later sleep paralysis happened again, then again.

 After a while, I stopped getting scared of it and decided to just have fun when it occurred. When I did, I started having the most vivid dreams during which I was fully aware.  When the body cannot perceive anything externally yet the mind is fully functioning, it will begin to create senses of its own.  It is actually quite fun.  

Lucid dreaming is pretty cool to do, and a lot of people spend tons of money to learn lucid dreaming. Some pay special institutes to train them in how to do it or to place them in a “sensory deprivation” chamber, which induces a lucid dream.  There is one such place quite close to UVA called the Monroe Institute. 

If you are like I am and try to learn things on your own the hard-knock way, it is very easy to learn lucid dreaming. There are various online tutorial which are pretty accurate, or you can happen to figure it out during sleep paralysis like I did.  You can also make your own “poor man’s version” of a sensory deprivation chamber using the Ganzfeld method.  This poor man’s version uses ping-pong balls, white noise, and blankets to simulate a sensory deprivation state. Learn it here:

You cut a ping pong ball in half, cover each eye with one, pop on some headphones playing white noise, and cover yourself with a blanket or sit in a heated room.  After sitting still for about 30 minutes, the experimenter will start to create images and impressions in his mind because there are none being perceived externally.  Note, I have never tried this but it is renowned by researchers and lucid dreamers alike for its results.

Lucid dreaming can be a great way for people to go on a sort of vacation in their mind if there is not a way to have one in real life.

A locked-in patient can do it on his own and very easily because his senses will already be deprived. 

So friends, knowing Morse code is important and so is Lucid dreaming. Especially if you ever find yourself with “Locked-in Syndrome.”

1 comment:

  1. Morse Code is still in active use as far as long distance communication is concerned even if 1300 Numbers, mobile phones and Skype chat are already created. :)