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My brother's life with schizophrenia and treatment for it


Experiencing my brother's teenage schizophrenia
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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My brother, Michael, was schizophrenic. He had his first psychotic break when he was 15, in his 16th year. I had just… I was 10, 10... in my 11th year, I had just come back from the country, and I was terrified at hearing him stamping and shouting, and talking about things of one sort and another, which was like the stuff of nightmares and dreams. And I was very frightened for myself. I loved Michael, I revered him, and I thought, if this is happening to him, is this in store for me? And in a way which reflects no credit on me, I think I partly insulated myself, or tried to insulate myself from all this, by locking myself in the little chemical laboratory which... which was being made, and thinking... thinking of chemistry and doing chemistry all the while.

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: Michael Sacks

Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012