Awakenings - Oliver Sacks
"Awakenings" is an essay work that was written by the English neurologist Oliver Sacks in 1973.
The book is set up at the Mount Carmel Hospital in New York and it has the form of a personal diary. The doctor tells about 20 patients who have been victims of a "sleep disorder" that hit the country between 1917 and 1927.
The doctor provides some biographical data for each patient, describing their life before the lethargic encephalitis (an inflammatory pathology of the brainstem due to a virus not yet identified and characterized by some "negative" states or absences and catatonic disorders) during treatment of L-Dopa (a medication that awakens patients for a short time), and after the treatment of this medicine.
We can notice a large variability in the description of the patients: each patient analyzed has different characters and responses to the drug. And Sacks has a great humanity and empathy: he is able to understand each patient differently, to relate to him according to his needs.
Another fundamental point of the book is to showing how we, "healthy" people, are lucky enough to be able to live our lives as much as possible in full health. These sleeping patients spend whole days locked in a chair on a bed, completely incapable of doing movements, but at the time of the administration of the medicine they awaken and resume life, some for a short while, others have resumed completely, while others they have resumed but with motor consequences. Patients feel alive at the time of awakening, and, even if they feel alive, are able to accept frightening consequences rather than becoming lethargic and passing the whole life to nothing. In fact, the suffering, the illness, the fear of death as well as the loss of ourselves and the world we have known are some of the most elementary and intense terror that everyone deeply feeds.