Oliver Sacks

Any one living with a mystifying neurological disorder should take note that Oliver Sacks died yesterday. Sacks was a physician, a neurologist of note and a towering literary figure. He brought neurological disorders to life. His book, The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, helped me to understand, even appreciate, the startling conceptual oddities that have become the highlight of my cognitive roller coaster ride.
Reduced to its simplest, I felt this neurologist understood me, a rare occurrence. We crossed paths only once, in a television studio before a program I produced. He seemed to be an accessible, easy person. We talked. I never mentioned my MS. I only listened. I could not get enough. Situations such as that teach that it is a privilege to be a journalist.
I bring Sacks up for a reason. Michiko Kakutani wrote the obituary in The New York Times. She is very good. I felt that she could have been thinking of us as she explained the man. Kakutani wrote of his case studies, “They emphasized people’s resilience, their ability to adapt to their deficits, enabling them to hold onto a sense of identity…Some even find that their conditions spur them to startling creative achievement.” Right on target. He knew the struggle.
This doctor looked past the conventional, limited views of patients, the ordinary evaluations. His books made it clear there is a loftier take on these illnesses. These conditions “can play a paradoxical role in bringing out latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life that that might never be seen or even be imaginable in their absence.”
Oliver Sacks believe d in his patients. He brought a nobility to his work.

7 Responses to Oliver Sacks

  1. Sandy Stolaronek August 31, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    I wish most doctors were like that! Another doctor who was well known, although not as much, had passed away this month August 25th. His name was Dr. Red Duke, from the University of Texas, Health Science Center at Houston. He was a trauma surgeon for Hermann Memorial Hospital. He was a real character with a charming personality, loving and tender bedside manner, instrumental in establishing the Life-Flight trauma emergency services there. He was well known for his southern Texas drawl and large mustache and even a cowboy hat at times. He was the best in his field, even being considered at one time for United States Surgeon General, in 1989. When I lived in Houston and worked at the Medical School, I used to see him in the halls of the Hospital, in the medical school and even rode in the elevator with him and he always had kind words to say. He will surely be missed! R.I.P. Dr. Red Duke.

    • Richard M. Cohen August 31, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

      I thiink there are some good guys.


  2. E September 2, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Downloaded Sack’s book you mentioned on my NOOK yesterday. It is always good to read the words of one who knows of the struggle encountered by MSers.

  3. E September 2, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Oops…that should be Sacks’…

  4. Sandy September 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I don’t think good doctors start out like that. I think they are shaped and trained by their patients. I had to train my neuro to make eye contact and laugh at my humor. The guy loves a good disease but patients not so much.
    I had to convince him that in order to see my disease he had to tolerate me as the host. We are great friends now….15 years in the making.

    Sacks keeps us hopeful that we will be understood.

  5. Louise September 2, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I don’t know – I think sometimes naturally kind,compassionate, emotionally connected people become doctors. My neuro certainly is all all those things. Neurology ( and MS specialist in particular) is a tough field for people who became doctors to heal or cure people.

  6. Dale September 3, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

    My daughter’s nephrologist at Boston Children’s was one of those kind of doctors. Kind and compassionate, loving especially to her growing up. He was sad how impersonal medicine had become for most. I have given up finding someone like that around here but hopeful Sack’s legacy will live on.