Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Journalist and author, Chen Hung, dies at 83

PAINSTAKING:The writer, who was paralyzed, wrote phoneme by phoneme 350,000 words by blinking his eyes at each ‘bo-po-mo-fo’ sound his wife made

By Shih Chih-ju, Wei Yi-chia and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Chen Hung (陳宏), who wrote seven books with the blink on an eye, has died at age 83.

He died on Saturday morning at the Taipei City Hospital Zhongxiao Branch in Nangang District after his family agreed to take him off life support.

Chen worked for many years as an editorial writer for the China Evening News and chief photography editor for the China Post.

In 1997, he began to experience difficulties walking, which he thought might have been caused by a mild stroke or dislocated disks in his spine.

In 1999, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, gradually paralyzing the person. By that time he could no longer move or talk.

At the time, he said: “Even suffering from illness, one must go on with energetic living.”

In the first 11 years after his illness was diagnosed, Chen managed, with the help of his wife, to write seven books, including Love for Life between Blinks (生命之愛,在眨眼之間), a total of 350,000 words, phoneme by phoneme.

To write, Chen’s wife, Liu Hsueh-hui (劉學慧), would read through the phonetic characters of a “bo-po-mo-fo” board, reciting the sounds over and over again and watching for her husband to blink at a phoneme. When a sentence was finished, Liu would read it back to Chen for him to confirm that it was what he wanted to say.

Attending neurologist Huang Chih-hsun (黃啟訓) said Chen’s family decided to take him off life support because his major organs had begun to fail and his blood pressure had been dropping rapidly and they did not want him to suffer further.

Taiwan Motor Neuron Disease Association chairman Liu Yen-chu (劉延鉅) said the news of Chen’s death came as a shock.

“It has been over a decade since he came down with ALS. He wrote seven books by blinking his eyes.

The most impressive thing was that for most people writing books, they have to check a lot of data when writing. For Chen, all the information was there in his head,” Liu Yen-chu said.

“He has been a model and a beacon for ALS sufferers to look up to. People with this disease have to deal with difficult conditions,” Liu Yen-chu added.

“Now he has been relieved of his mission. We hope he walked away in peace and is resting at ease now,” Liu Yen-chu said.

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