Oliver Sacks was a masterful story teller who first got my attention with “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat”. Through his writings I could always see that his focus was on the person struggling with a neurological problem rather than solely on their symptoms. As a clinician working in brain injury rehabilitation that ability to continue to see the person is so important to the work that we do. Dr. Sacks never disregarded the symptoms or underplaying disease which brought his patients to him. But, he saw his patients in the totality of living their lives with these problems and his role was to help them live with less disability and to their fullest; an admirable and important goal.
It seemed that Dr. Sacks would always publish a new book at the right time in my career whenever I would need a refresher course in what he taught so well: learn from the person and help them get on with their lives. It was just three months prior to his death that I read his biography and better understood his life and it’s complexities.
When Dr. Sacks announced that he had terminal cancer and wouldn’t have long to live I was saddened by the loss yet to occur. Who would write the wonderful stories and books that always held my attention and offered great clinical insights? So far, no one has emerged to take his place and sadly I think that no one will. There are many great clinicians, but only a few great teachers. Dr. Sacks possessed both those skill sets and also was a great writer of stories.
Dr. Sacks, farewell and may you find peace at the end of your journey.