Imagine what it would be like to one day wake up and find that you were suddenly both blind and completely paralysed. This is what happened to Patient H69. Her condition is unique. It has no name.
Over the course of the next six months, Patient H69 slowly recovered her eyesight. Opening her eyes onto a watery, two-dimensional landscape, Patient H69 saw an unrecognisably monochromatic world. As colour reappeared, she encountered a range of bizarre phenomena, from synaesthesia to discussions with inanimate objects all part of her brain's response to suddenly losing two sense. And in the process, she became a one-woman experimental subject, as a multidisciplinary team of neurobiologists, psychologists, immunologists and developmental biologists tried to work out what had happened to her, and what incredible things could be learnt from her miraculous recovery.
This mesmerising account tells the story of Patient H69 in her own words, based on the detailed audio-diaries she kept during her time of blindness and over the course of the two years of scientific research that was to follow. It provides a unique story of terror and torment in the beginning, moving on to scientific discovery, some pretty weird neurobiology, the brilliance of the NHS and a woman battling against all odds to make the best of a unique situation, turning herself into a science sleuth to uncover the mechanics of her own brain, and learning meditation and self-hypnosis tools to endure the ordeal.
Embraced and supported by neuroscientists along the way, Patient H69 learned about some of the hidden, innermost functions of the brain and our complex visual system, while her own case study offered scientists an important, and previously inaccessible window into the process of early visual development, as her own optic nerves self-repaired and her brain went into overdrive.
This is a gripping human story, made all the more real by the unique response of one patient and the science she uncovers.
About the Author
Vanessa Potter spent 16 years as an award-winning broadcast producer in London's advertising industry, before one day fate conspired to turn the lights out on her. Suddenly losing then slowly regaining her sight led Vanessa to change direction, turning the camera upon herself to tell her story via immersive art and storytelling. Vanessa's collaborations have led to some exciting partnerships, and she is currently working on developing an interactive EEG science-art project that allows the public to see and understand the effects of mindfulness on their brains.
She is also involved in several other scientific research projects. Her speaking engagements include a June 2016 TEDx talk in Ghent, Belgium.
Patient H69 reads like a thriller ... It is an extraordinary book. What begins as a surreal nightmare of decline becomes a rallying triumph of will and spirit. - The Times
For once, the adjectives slathered on a Dramatic First-Person Journey (raw, candid, tragic, inspiring) are warranted. - Times Higher Education Supplement
Follows this indomitable woman's struggles to win back her sight. - The Times, Saturday Review
This book reminds us to treasure the gift of sight. - The Time, Saturday Review
Brilliant, insightful, and inspiring. As Potter explores the science behind her condition, she celebrates the remarkable adaptability and flexibility of the human brain and gives us tools to overcome even the deepest traumas. - Susan R. Barry, author of Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions
Part patient diary, part journey into and out of blindness, part popular science book, this is an engaging and at times heart-breakingly sad account of what can happen when we lose our sight. A must read for anyone who does not see the world as others do and who wants to know why. - Hannah Thompson, Reader at Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of the Blind Spot blog