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Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Importance Of Morse Code In Medicine

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A 79-year-old English woman was injured in a fall and suffered severe brain damage. She was unable to move or speak but she could still understand her surroundings.

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Her knowledge of Morse code helped her to communicate with those around her. Her son Alan sat at her bedside for 16 weeks while she recovered and thought about ways to communicate with her.

He remembered that she had learned Morse code as a child from her father. Alan says, Of course, she hadn’t used it for 60 years so obviously she was rusty, but remembered it and it all grew from there.

Alan Jones made a communication device out of a margarine tub and shower curtain ring. Mrs. Jones can understand what people are saying but must use the Morse code to respond.

The first thing she said using the code was How is Fred? in reference to her pet tortoise. Her son Alan is now working on a way to have her Morse code tapping appear on a computer screen for faster communication.

It was good that Mrs. Jones’s father taught her Morse code. You never know when it will be needed. A friend of the author suffered from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, so named for a famous New York Yankees first baseman.

2,130 consecutive games played from 1925 through 1938 earned him the nickname of the Iron Horse. During his career Lou set over 20 records including four home runs in one game!

With a lifetime batting average of 340, when he was stopped by a mysterious illness, a disease of the motor neurons, muscle-controlling nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

His body literally wasted away. Following Lou’s death, ALS was given the name of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The author’s friend suffered a similar fate, and after diagnosis was informed that he might survive, with proper care, up to five years.

His condition rapidly deteriorated and he soon began to lose his ability to speak. Bedridden, he scratched notes and family members learned to read his grunts, but his mind continued to function normally, making him increasingly frustrated.


After we shared the Morse code program with him being known as Code Quick, he learned it rapidly and began to communicate by blinking Morse code with his eyes. No longer unable to communicate, he appeared to be much more contented during his final days of life.

It has been reported that people who are both blind and deaf have been taught to communicate with Morse code through the use of a skin buzzer.

Imagine how this simple technology might have helped Helen Keller as she struggled to understand and communicate without hearing or sight during her early years.

Morse code has had numerous uses over time, but the most compassionate is its application with the sick and disabled.

With limited sensory ability, the patient’s capacity to maintain communication with loved ones and family continues to offer hope and encouragement during degenerative illnesses.

People at Handi-ham exist to provide free information and services for people suffering disabling conditions.

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