Hodder & Stoughton has acquired Danish scientist Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard’s "life-affirming" memoir, The Blink of an Eye, about her experience of locked-in syndrome.
Publisher Rowena Webb bought world rights from Antony Topping at Greene & Heaton.
Kjaergaard, who is a scientist and mother of three, was struck by a sudden bacterial infection in 2013. Within hours she had suffered multiple organ collapse and briefly died before being revived and remaining in a coma. She was to spend the next weeks and months on the edge of existence with locked-in syndrome. Her brain still functioned, but the only signal of life she could send was through blinking her eyes.
Now fully recovered - following a "slow" and "painful" process teaching herself to breathe, eat, talk and move again - her story is described as "a powerful insight into the nightmare as well as the science of locked-in syndrome, and an inspiration to never give up hope and cherish every little thing in life we take for granted".
Bestselling author Bill Bryson, who met Kjaergaard after her recovery and encouraged her to bring it to the attention of a publisher, will contribute a foreword to the book.
Kjaergaard is based in Copenhagen but has lived in both the UK and in the USA and has written the book in English. She commented: "Statistically, I shouldn’t be able to write this book. I should be dead. Or at least scraping along, brain damaged and unable to take care of myself. Thinking back, it is difficult for me to understand that I’m still here. I know what it’s like to wake up from a long-term coma. I know the horror and pain from being paralysed in a body only able to observe the world around you, not to participate. I know what it’s like to understand everything, when everybody thinks you know nothing. I know what it’s like to fight every single day just to be able to breathe. I was given a second chance in life. My book is my way of paying it forward, to give a voice to those who have none."
Webb said: "Rikke has been on the cusp of life and death with locked-in syndrome – and survived, not only to tell her tale beautifully but with a scientific understanding which makes her unique. I’m thrilled to publish her wonderful memoir which I hope will inspire many others."
Hodder will publish in hardback and e-book in spring 2018.
It will hit shelves just ahead of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan, a memoir of a boy with locked-in syndrome due to publish on Kings Road's new wellness imprint, Lagom, in July 2018.