a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Working to fund my travelling around the USA


Sleeping on fungus in the Central Valley
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Kate, you asked what sustained me, you know, and how I lived when I was travelling.  I... motels were cheap then, just $2 or $3 a night, but I had a sleeping bag and I often slept outside. You have to be careful where you sleep outside. Although... because on one occasion when I was driving down from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I bedded down on what seemed to be a natural bed of something beautiful and soft and I slept very well, inhaling the… well, in the morning I realised that I’d bedded down on a huge mass of fungal spores. This is Coccidiomyces, a fungus of the Central Valley and I must have been inhaling fungus spores all night. Coccidiomyces illnesses are almost endemic in California. Most people only get something like a cold and this is what I got, although I think I probably still have positive skin reactions to Cocci but one of our patients at UCLA got severe neurological involvement and... and meningitis.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Central Valley

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012