Locked-In, Not Locked Out: A Remarkable Story of Resilience

29-Year-Old Howard Wicks writes a book using an eye-driven communication device.

(Ground Picture / Shutterstock.com)

Howard Wicks, a 29-year-old resident of Dartmouth, Devon, faced a profound change in his life following a catastrophic stroke in 2011 as a teenager. This stroke left him with Locked-In Syndrome, a condition that renders him almost entirely paralyzed except for his ability to think and perceive the world around him. The BBC reports that remarkably, Wicks has found a way to overcome these barriers through the use of an Eyegaze computer. This device tracks his eye movements, enabling him to communicate with those around him and to pursue his passion for writing and recently completing his first book.

Using his eyes to tell his story
Locked-In Syndrome makes every physical task and spontaneous communication virtually impossible, which Wicks describes as one of the most agonizing and frustrating aspects of his condition. According to the Daily Mail, using the Eyegaze computer, Howard embarked on the challenging journey of writing a novel. Over 18 months, he meticulously composed 50,000 words, crafting a narrative that reflects his life experiences. The initial chapter of his book introduces readers to his life before the stroke, providing a poignant insight into who he was. The story then follows his transition from the hospital setting to reintegrating into community life. This book is intended to be the first installment in a trilogy that spans his life from the age of 16 to the present day.

"The initial chapter introduces the reader to my life before the stroke, allowing them to understand who I was. The book concludes with my transition from the hospital setting to community life," Wicks told the BBC

Wick’s writing process and the completion of his novel are monumental achievements, showcasing his tenacity and creative spirit. The Eyegaze technology has been instrumental in this process, allowing him to express his thoughts and stories despite the physical challenges posed by Locked-In Syndrome. Wick’s story is not just one of personal triumph but also of the incredible potential of assistive technology to transform lives. The Eyegaze computer has enabled him to break through the confines of his physical limitations and share his experiences with the world. His determination to write and communicate underscores the human spirit's capacity to adapt and thrive even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Wicks says the process of writing was a cathartic experience, “I enjoyed writing it especially the parts I personally enjoyed living myself,” and he hopes his book will raise awareness for an organization he founded, The Locked In Trust, that is committed to supporting individuals suffering the condition. “I founded this charity four years ago, but it hasn't achieved the reach or impact it needs. This was another motivation behind completing the book: to propel the charity to the forefront of society,” Wicks told the Daily Mail

Writing to inspire
As Wicks continues to work on the subsequent installments of his trilogy, his journey serves as an inspiration to many. His ability to turn adversity into a platform for creativity and communication is a testament to his strength and resilience. Through his writing, Wicks offers a powerful message of hope and perseverance, highlighting the importance of finding ways to connect and share our stories, no matter the challenges we face.

“From the moment I gained the ability to type, writing a book has always been a goal of mine. Over time, more incentives to pursue this dream emerged. I believed that finishing it was essential for my happiness and personal progress,” Wicks explained. 

Howard Wicks' story is a profound example of overcoming adversity through innovation and determination. His use of Eyegaze technology to write a novel despite severe physical limitations demonstrates the remarkable potential of assistive devices in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. This unique literary project continues to inspire and motivate, reflecting the enduring power of the human spirit.

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