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.


The memories and moods I had whilst rescuing myself


Inspecting my grotesquely broken leg
Oliver Sacks Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

One has dissociations in times of extremity. My first thought was, someone has had an accident, a bad accident, and then I realised it was me. I tried to stand up and the leg gave way like a strand of spaghetti, completely limp. I then examined it, and in examining it I did so very professionally, and imagining that I was an orthopaedist demonstrating an injury to a class of students, I said, 'You see the... the quadriceps tendon has torn off completely, the patella can be flapped to and fro, the knee can be dislocated backwards,' I yelled with that, 'This causes the patient to yell', and then again I came back to the fact that I was not a professor demonstrating an injury, I was the injured person. I had an anorak, I tore the anorak in two, and I had used an umbrella as a walking stick, this was before the age of miniature umbrellas, and I... I broke off the top, and I splinted the stem of the umbrella to my leg using the torn anorak and then started my descent. At first very quietly, because I thought the bull, without falling down a cliff, may have just pursued the path and was behind me.

The... since we’ve mentioned Duncan Dallas who did the documentary of Awakenings, the thought of him and his crew came to me when I was there. I was alone. No-one knew where I was. I thought the chances were very much against survival, but I thought, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if a helicopter appeared and there was Duncan and his crew, a great scene here, showing... show the bull, show me, and then I could be lifted up in a basket in the helicopter. A sense of... of how dramatic this was... was partly in my mind.

Well, anyhow, I... I didn’t think I would make it. I’d heard earlier that evening, they said, of a fool of an Englishman who... who had climbed the mountain and had been found three weeks later near the summit with both legs broken.

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: Norway, Awakenings, Duncan Dallas

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012