When Helen Keller was a year old, she became gravely ill. The doctor diagnosed her illness as being "acute congestion of the stomach and brain" (The Story of My Life, Chapter I). Helen's parents and the doctor feared for her life because of the severity of her illness. Young Helen was feverish and in pain. One day, she recovered from her illness and her body began to get better. It was only discovered later that the illness had robbed her of her sight and hearing. Helen would remain deaf and blind for the rest of her life. Helen described the illness in her autobiography as the event that "closed [her] eyes and ears and plunged [her] into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby."
Even though Helen was very young when she became ill, she kept vague memories of the ordeal. In her autobiography, she recalled what she could:
I especially remember the tenderness with which my mother tried to soothe me in my waking hours of fret and pain, and the agony and bewilderment with which I awoke after a tossing half sleep, and turned my eyes, so dry and hot, to the wall, away from the once-loved light, which came to me dim and yet more dim each day (The Story of My Life, Chapter I).
Helen felt pain and she was aware of a fading light at the time. Her mother comforted her through the painful illness. Looking back at that time as an adult, Helen recalled the sadness as her sight faded slowly each day.