Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paralyzed author (with ALS) introduces complete series of eye-dictated writings

Taipei, July 15 (CNA) Author Chen Hung, who has an incurable degenerative nerve disease, unveiled on Sunday with first lady Chow Mei-ching on hand a book series compiled from previous works he "wrote" by blinking his eyes.

The bedridden Chen, who was an active photojournalist, educator and photographer before being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the late 1990s, greeted the first lady by eye-typing "Hello, Ms. Chow" at an event to promote a collection of five volumes containing 360 articles compiled from seven books Chen completed between 2001 and 2010.

Also known as Lou Gehring's disease, ALS, or motor neuron disease (MND), leads to symptoms such as muscle weakness and stiffness, and eventually leaves the patient unable to move, but patients' minds are usually unaffected.

The cause of the disease is unknown and there is no cure.

Chen broke the Guinness world record for the most words published using eye-blinking dictation with his fifth novel published in 2007, which contains more than 190,000 Chinese characters.

In total, the complete series of five volumes, scheduled to be officially published on Monday, has 350,000 characters, according to the publisher.

Chen covers a wide variety of topics in his writing, from painting, drama, and photography to medical care in an optimistic and hopeful tone. He also chronicled his decade-long battle against the disease.

The 79-year-old began to "write" books with the help of his wife, blinking his eyes to represent Chinese phonetic symbols. He published his first book that used the technique in 2002.

It took him about five to seven days to complete 1,000 characters, according to the event's host Ma Hsi-ping, who was Chen's student when he taught at a journalism and communications college in Taipei.

The eye-dictation process was both tiring and time-consuming and took a lot of patience, said Chen's wife Liu Hsueh-hui. However, he insisted on "handing in his work on time" and remained productive for years, she said.

Chen is an unusual ALS case because most patients only live for three to five years after the disease attacks, said the writer's doctor Chen Wen-kuei.

Although his health condition does not allow him to write by winking anymore, Chen's words will continue to inspire not only those with illnesses but all readers, the publisher said.

"I've been lying in bed for over a decade. Living in confinement, my 'land' is indeed narrow, which is something I can do nothing about. What I can do is to expand the borders of my mind to balance the 'narrow land,'" Chen wrote in the book.

(By Huang Li-yun and Kendra Lin)

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