Book Review: Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

This book goes beyond science to personal accounts of the patients and Oliver Sacks, though, never leaving the realm of science and what is known about mental and neurological issues. This shows that science doesn’t have to be cold, but also that compassion and caring aren’t illogical and outside the realm of medicine. Oliver Sacks’ voice makes the Awakenings beautiful, humane, and touching. He made me see the agony the patients felt and the glory and confusion of the reawakenings.

Oliver Sacks tells how his patients, who were infected by the sleeping sickness, reacted to the drug L-DOPA. The drug made reawakenings possible. Some patients responded miraculously to the drug, and to others, it was disastrous. But that is because we (our bodies) don’t live in a vacuum. We are not only our flesh, but we also have history, future, and identities, and we live in time and space along with others. We all have wants and needs. We all need to be touched and cared for. That is what to take away from this book. From Oliver Sacks himself and from the patients. We need motion; we need compassion, to feel touched, and some of us for a reason or other don’t have that.

The book doesn’t stop there. Oliver Sacks goes over the patients’ lives were before and after the drug. He gives all of his patients a voice and the time and care needed to convey their struggles and triumphs. There is this melancholic sadness yet with hope throughout the book and the patients’ history. It is not because catatonia robbed away their lives, but because of the human condition that is ever so present in their lives.

Oliver Sacks’ care for his patients is present in the book and in his philosophy, how medicine should be made. And that is putting the patients first and taking them as whole human beings and not only as bodies with medical conditions.

Awakening is something I believe should be on your must-read list. It teaches so much about life through the patients and through the compassionate words of Dr. Sacks.

Thank you for reading! Have a great day to the best of these circumstances!

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