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The only changes to Awakenings for the disgruntled patient


How the patients of Awakenings felt
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I couldn’t have written Awakenings without the encouragement and permission of the patients themselves, who... who said, 'Tell our stories or it will never be known'. They had an overwhelming feeling of having been disposed of by society, put away, forgotten, lepers. And they... but I myself was hesitant after that thing with The New York Daily News. And I thought to myself, well perhaps if I just publish Awakenings in England, the patients won’t know about it, and it won’t cause any repercussions. But one of the patients, intelligent woman – a very intelligent woman –had got wind of this, wrote to Colin, who gleefully sent her a copy of Awakenings. And then it was out. This patient herself... she didn’t mind my having told the... really in a way, the... the tragedy of her life, which involved her getting the encephalitis when she was 12, coming to Beth Abraham when she was 16, and being... a living statue for close to 40 years. There were certain personal things which she didn’t like. There was one sentence in which I had referred to her as obese, bearded, and acromegalic which was all true, but she... she didn’t like this... this description of herself, and I don’t blame her, and I have a story I will... I will tell later with regard to that.

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: Awakenings, The New York Daily News, Beth Abraham Hospital, Colin Haycraft

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012