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Vintage Books, 1999 - Medical - 408 pages
39 Reviews
Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, "awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of his patients, their lives, and the extraordinary transformations which went with their reintroduction to a changed world.

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Reviewed Jan 2005
I loved the movie and have been looking for the book. Found it this xmas season while shopping for presents. The movie is based on events in the book, the story line is a bit
stretched. Sacks writes case studioes of 20 patients, detailing their illness before and after L-DOPA. As with his other book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" he speaks as a doctor not as a novelist, making the reading difficult at times. I know I skipped over hundreds of words I would never be able to pronounce.
The stories of these patients and their wasted lives is overwhelmingly sad, to be frozen, dependent on others and in many cases abandoned by family is horrific. I was confused at times to read that many of the patients could speak and understood some of what was happening around them. In the movie this isn't true. The patients upon awakening teach the staff and family that they are real people with frustrations and desires unique to themselves.
Almost more sad were the underlying problems at the hospital. Programs cut, visitors discouraged, staff cut back...ect...which leads to horrible consequences. Severe depression and resentment also several deaths due to bedsores. I would like to think my boys would show an interest in this, maybe learning compassion and learning about human spirit and the will to survive.

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A very scholarly, detailed and highly compassionate treatment of the sleeping sickness epidemic of the early 1900s, and the victims of it that Sacks treated during his employment at Mount Carmel ... Read full review



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About the author (1999)

Oliver Sacks was a neurologist, writer, and professor of medicine. Born in London in 1933, he moved to New York City in 1965, where he launched his medical career and began writing case studies of his patients. Called the "poet laureate of medicine" by The New York Times, Sacks is the author of thirteen books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Awakenings, which inspired an Oscar-nominated film and a play by Harold Pinter. He was the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2008 for services to medicine. He died in 2015.

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