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In 2012, Vanessa Potter, a married advertising film producer with two young children, was stricken by Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD), a rare illness that resulted in sudden blindness and paralysis. She was hospitalized for two weeks. Over the next five months at home, she regained mobility but recovering her sight was more problematic. At first what she saw was monochromatic. As color reappeared, she encountered synesthesia (experiencing odd responses to stimuli, such as hearing inanimate objects talk to her). While a multidisciplinary team of neurobiologists, psychologists, immunologists, and developmental biologists treated her, she blogged and kept audio-diaries, using the pen-name Patient H69.
In her own words, Potter reveals the terror and torment of her blindness. Supported by neuroscientists and Britain's National Health Service, Potter became a science sleuth, uncovering some of the innermost functions of the brain and our complex visual system, while learning meditation and self-hypnosis to help herself endure the ordeal and make a miraculous recovery.
Her case 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. Patient H69 is a gripping human story, made all the more real by the unique response of one patient and the science she uncovers.