In the medical world, it is a rarity to uncover a medical anthropologist and an ambassador of compassion who writes with humor, tenderness, truth, sensitivity, and frankness. Dr. Oliver Sacks was all that and more. To this day, I don’t know of a greater contributor to the world of Parkinson’s disease. He was a tenacious advocate and Levodopa researcher, as documented in his book Awakenings and then movie starring Robin Williams. Over 50 years later, Levodopa remains the gold standard drug for Parkinson’s patients.
On a personal note, I started taking Levodopa in 1991, had I not had access to this medicine, I can only guess what my life would look like. This life-changing drug has given me the ability to move, to speak, and to function. Like millions of Parkinson’s patients around the world, I am and will be forever in Dr. Sack’s debt for the gift that he has given me and the Parkinson’s community.
The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks left us in 2015 but his numerous books, writings, lectures, and interviews live on and on. Now, thanks to the passion and vision of documentary film-maker Dempsey Rice, comes The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks. There is just over two weeks left to complete this important Kickstarter campaign and bring over ten years of exclusive interviews to the big screen. Through the beautiful medium of animation, Dempsey and her team will show us Oliver’s refreshing and revealing outlook on medicine and compassion, music, gratitude, and the down to earth attitude that made Dr. Sacks so revolutionary.
Dr. Sacks connected with his patients. He deeply cared about people and their care. Oliver Sacks understood the uniqueness of every patient and took a fresh approach to the doctor patient relationship. Both a compassionate neurologist and a tenacious investigator, Sacks believed that the patient should be more empowered and in greater control of their care—an uncommon and somewhat controversial opinion for many physicians. You can hear his compassion in this quote:
“My note was a strange mixture of facts and observations, carefully noted and itemized, with irrepressible meditations on what such problems might ‘mean’, in regard to who and what and where this poor man was – whether, indeed, one could speak of an ‘existence’, given so absolute a privation of memory or continuity.”
― Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
Dempsey says, “Animation is a great art form.” The medium of animation adds a whole new dimension that will elaborate on Sacks’ insights. Meshing Sack’s spoken words and powerful visuals of the stunning animation enhances the thoughts and concepts that are discussed onscreen. Through the power of film, we will see Dr. Oliver Sacks in what I believe to be a memorable moving documentary that encapsulates the immense impact that he had and continues to have on medicine, our medical care and our perception of medicine in general.
I think that this quote summarizes Dempsey’s passion, drive, and appreciation for Sacks’ works: “Throughout our time together, I was consistently awed by Oliver and his deep compassion for all living things. His unfailing curiosity drove him to explore the magic of how our brains work and delve into the extreme joys and sorrows that come with human existence,” said Rice. “My hope is that this film inspires new insight and deep compassion for the human experience, in addition to celebrating Oliver’s irrepressible enthusiasm for, and curiosity about, the human mind.”
Upon completion, Dempsey hopes the theatrical release will be available in early 2020.
This is a gentle reminder to all the selfless caregivers, care-partners, doctors, nurses, orderlies, therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, and anyone who comes in contact with people touched by a neurological illness. Remember these 5 important points before you react, speak, take offense, lose your temper, or give up:
Everyone has a history and a story. The person who you are dealing with now has had and may still have a very full life that you only see a portion. Give them the credit and respect that they are due.
The current state of the patient that you are seeing doesn’t need more stress, tension or conflict in their lives, working together you both can make life better for the patient and not worse.
Give your loved one or patient flexibility and deal with them creatively and an open mind. If they aren’t responding to medications offer music therapy, touch, or seek a personal solution which motivates the patient. There is a need for gentleness and understanding.
The person with whom you are interacting may have done some important things in their life, raised a family, changed many lives, and been far more active than they are now. Their current condition is not by choice. Show compassion, patience, caring, and generosity.
Someday, in the not so distant future, you or someone who you care deeply for could be facing these very same challenges.