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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#12 - Awakenings - Oliver Sacks

Title:  Awakenings
Author:  Oliver Sacks
Performed by:  Jonathan Davis and Oliver Sacks
Genre/Category:  Non-Fiction/Memoir   616.832
Published: originally/1973
Published: currently/Audible, Inc./2011
ISBN: 978-1-4805-3037-9
CDs/Hours:  11/13.25
Dates Listened to:  3/25/17 – 4/10/17

Encephalitis lethargica.  This phenomenon reared its ugly head after World War I.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people, men and women alike, suffered from this trance-like state from which they were not to awaken until Dr. Sacks came along.  He had seen how patients with Parkinson’s disease had rallied from taking Levodopa or L-DOPA.  From 1966 to 1991 Dr. Sacks worked at a hospital in the Bronx and it is during this time that he ministered to about 60 patients with this condition.  

The book covers the case histories of some of these zombie-like creatures.  While many of them responded to some degree from the use of L-DOPA, it was short-lived.  Some reacted favorably like one man who went on to live a productive life, others less so and were constantly having the dosage changed or regressed to their early stage of their condition.  Each patient, of course, has their own story of how encephalitis lethargica affected their lives and it is in the compassionate telling of each of these vignettes that we see the humanness of both doctor and patient emerge.

It is a fascinating book, one that may be more to the liking of those with a medical background.  The prelude that describes, in medical terms, what the epidemic is all about, was far over my head but I enjoyed the case studies.  Since the original publication of the book in 1973, Dr. Sacks has updated the book five more times.  The edition I listened to includes information about the movie based upon the book. 

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