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A Leg to Stand On


The memories and moods I had whilst rescuing myself
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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There were many different moods as I came down the path, I felt very... many, many, memories came to me, I didn’t see my life in a flash, but many, many, memories unreeled.  They were nearly all good memories, grateful memories, memories of summer afternoons, memories of having been loved, memories of having been given things, and I have to say, memory of the feelings that I had also given something back, in particular I thought, I’ve written one good book, and one great book, although I think I used the past tense and the third person, it was already sounding like an obituary: ‘At the time this happened, he had, however, written one good book, and one great book, and perhaps this was in his mind when he met his untimely end’.

I... I had almost given up hope, and it was eight hours later and getting very dark, and I was, I think, pretty shocked then, a huge amount of tissue swelling in the leg, fortunately no bleeding, and I... I heard a voice, 'Hello!' and I looked up and I saw two figures on a ridge. The man holding a gun, and a smaller figure who was his son, and they came down and they rescued me, and, I think, being rescued from almost certain death must be one of the sweetest experiences in life.

Anyhow, I don’t want to tell the whole of A Leg to Stand On, but I did decide to write about it and under another title.

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: A Leg to Stand On

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012