This is Gong Xunhui, a 62-year-old woman living in Chengdu, China. In November of 2014, she finished writing her autobiography which clocked in at an impressive 120,000 words. What makes this feat even more impressive is that Gong Xunhui wrote her book by blinking.
Gong Xunhui suffers from a motor neuron disease and is essentially frozen in her body. She is unable to speak or move her arms and legs, and depends upon her husband Zhang Cunrui to take care of her every day.
Gong Xunhui didn't always suffer from this debilitating disease. As a young woman growing up in China, she lived a very happy and normal life. She met her husband in 1976 after being introduced by her grandfather, and married him only 5 months later.
In 2002, Gong Xunhui started suffering from dizzy spells and an inability to move one of her legs. Eventually, her doctor diagnosed her with a motor neuron disease and told her she had only three to five years to live.
Although Gong Xunhui and her husband were devastated by the diagnosis, she was determined not to let her illness stop her from achieving her dreams. According to the Daily Mail, Gong announced one day to her husband, "I don't want to submit to fate. I'm still alive. I want to continue to live my life and not wait for death."
In 2012, Gong's family bought her an eye-tracking camera that connects to her computer, giving her the ability to control it.
Gong uses the special camera to type, blinking when the cursor hovers over the letter or character she wants. While writing her autobiography, Gong would sometimes work more than ten hours each day, blinking tirelessly to record her story.
Although Gong Xunhui's life has been drastically altered by her disease, she insists that her autobiography, Beautiful Frozen, is not a story of sadness. As she told the Daily Mail, "The biography is not about how miserable my life is. It's about trying to encourage fellow sufferers and those trying to overcome setbacks in their lives. Setbacks makes life stronger."
Gong's book is available for purchase in her hometown, and she plans for the proceeds from its sale to go toward funding respirators for other people with motor neuron diseases. She also hopes her accomplishment will encourage others to achieve their own dreams. She writes: "I want to use my personal experience to let all ALS patients know that, although we suffer the incurable disease, there is still a lot we can do to enrich our lives."
There are many other inspirational stories like Gong Xunhui's of people accomplishing great things despite their inability to move freely.
Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French fashion magazine Elle. In 1995, Bauby suffered a massive stroke which left him unable to move any part of his body except for his left eyelid. Similarly to Gong Xunhui, Bauby wrote the story of his life by repeatedly blinking, although he didn't have access to the same technology. In Bauby's case, someone would continuously recite the alphabet and Bauby would blink when they got to the letter he wanted. It was very slow going, but he eventually wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was also made into an award-winning film.
Perhaps the most well-known sufferer of ALS is Lou Gehrig, former first baseman and star batter for the New York Yankees. In fact, the disease is often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease." In the middle of Gehrig's 1938 season, his once-formidable power drastically declined, and by April of 1939 he went from having a batting average of .295 to .143. It was at this point that Lou Gehrig's doctor finally diagnosed him with a motor neuron disease, and Lou was unable to return to the field. However, despite his struggles with ALS, Lou Gehrig is known as one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
Another well-known sufferer of a motor neuron disease is the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Diagnosed with the disease at the age of 21 in 1963, Hawking continued to work hard and eventually became one of the leading scientists of the modern world. His work in the fields of cosmology, general relativity and quantum gravity continue to inspire people from all around the world.
Jon Imber was a renowned painter and resident of Maine. He taught at Harvard and was well-known for his incredible portraits and delicate painting technique. In 2012, Imber was diagnosed with ALS, but he refused to let that diagnosis stop him from practicing his art. Jon continued to paint stunning portraits and still lifes for the rest of his life, even after he could no longer stand. The documentary Jon Imber's Left Handtells the story of this inspirational artist.