It’s easy to take everyday activities for granted, such as reading or writing. But for Michelle Melland, writing about the books she loves became a near impossible task, until now. Despite being unable to use her hands, Melland can write book reviews, simply by using her eyes.
In 2011, the 50-year old mother from Kansas City was diagnosed with a paralyzing form of ALS. Also known as amytrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the debilitating disease means that Melland can only use the muscles in her eyes, eyebrows and lips. At home, she lies on her back and uses a ventilator to feed her oxygen.
But in Melland’s blog, BookThoughtsFromBed.com, she mentions how her disease has only enhanced her hunger for reading. She wrote that “it’s progressed to the point where I’m basically paralyzed and spend most of my time in bed (thus the name of the blog).”
“Thanks to technology, I’m able to access and control online e-readers, and thanks to Amazon and local libraries, I have limitless numbers of books to choose from. I’m optimistically looking at this phase of life as ‘retirement’ and aren’t I lucky that I get to spend my retirement reading in bed? Yeah, it’s a stretch…”
Melland told the Kansas City Star that “my first concerns were for my daughters and husband. I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to help my daughters grow up and upset that they were losing their mother.”
Amazingly, it’s taken Melland only 44 weeks to read 44 books, allowing her to write weekly reviews. She’s open to what she reads, but under one condition: nothing heavy or depressing. Melland said, “I read to learn and to be entertained, and I don’t think that reading depressing books is entertaining at all.”
Neurologist Santosh Kesari says that technological advances like Melland’s eye-gaze software are helping people who suffer from ALS communicate better with others around them. Kesari told Yahoo Beauty, “even with the minimal movement that some patients have, the ability to use those movements to communicate greatly enhances people’s quality of life and productivity.”
For someone like Melland who is in a more advanced stage of the illness, she can simply use her eyes to look at letters, which the computer will then type out for the patient. This advance in technology means that Melland can carry on enjoying her passion for reading and make the most of her writing ability.