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Book Title: Een been om op te staan|
The author of the book: Oliver Sacks
ISBN 13: 9789041710079
Date of issue: 1995
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 6.16 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.6
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Wow, what a marvelous book! I'd always thought: "how can even the brilliant Oliver Sacks write a 200-page book about his own leg?" That would have to be one of the great works of solipsism, wouldn't it? And it is, it is--the book is among other things a fascinating investigation of self, but it goes beyond that. In 1974 Dr. Sacks (a shy bookish man by temperament) went for a friendly climb of a 7,000 foot mountain in Norway. I don't know if you can say that Dr. Sacks does anything thoughtlessly, but when he clambers into the paddock of a bull despite ample signage warning him away, you wonder. In due course, he comes across the bull, which really does nothing more than raise it massive horned head. The animal never pursues Sacks. Yet the good doctor panics, bolts madly across a meadow, falls and brutally severs the quadriceps of his left leg. He is lucky he doesn't die on the mountain for he is miles from his village lodging and the nights even in summer are freezing. Almost miraculously he is found crawling back to town by a couple of hunters, a father and son. In short order he is flown to London where he proceeds to experience a profound sense of "alienation" from his leg. He excoriates his surgical team for their lack of bedside manner. That is itself something you rarely see in print or in life: one doctor criticizing another. But the fair-minded Sacks soon comes to realize that the problem goes deeper than his surgeon. It's symtomatic of the healthcare juggernaut as a whole. Sacks has been deliberately left alone with his thoughts and what ensues is a profound dissociation from his leg. He feels it is "no longer part of him," that the leg is "dead," that it will never return to full use. He undergoes a clinically pure example of loss of proprioception. This is the sense we all have of our bodily posture. Nurse Sulu enters Sacks's hospital room one day in alarm. His leg has fallen out of bed and splayed itself at a strange angle. Yet Sacks lies in bed with the distinct impression that the leg is still in bed with him, tidily tucked away. He is shocked upon lifting his head from the pillow. He exhorts Nurse Sulu to move the leg this way and that. He is unable to tell what position she has put the leg in with his eyes closed. In the first half of the book Sacks worked from his own journal and he was careful to leave the fear and exclamations in, his at times irrational circular reasoning. He wants us to know how frightening the whole experience is, not just for himself, but for those in the same predicament. The moment on the mountain pales in comparison to the horrors he experiences in the hospital. Sacks undergoes a profound alteration of body image. The injury, subsequent surgery and casting of his leg has led to desensitization and atrophy until he "forgets" how to use it. He is left abed for 14 days. The second half of the book is a consideration of his experience from a clinical perspective. I don't mean to say that the first part of the book is not of interest, but it is when Sacks begins his consideration of the neurological reasons for his experience that for me the book began to sing. There are fascinating explications of how the brain "sees" the body, as well as the neural correlates for all this. The section of the brain dedicated to body-image, as it turns out, is the somatosensory cortex, part of the parietal lobe. Eventually Sacks leads the reader thoughtfully through the available literature on body image. There isn't much, to be sure. Among these is a work entitled Reflex Paralysis generated by surgeons of the hand during the American Civil War (1861-65). I am glossing over a lot here. The book is an intellectual feast on many levels. It is an almost unbelievably rich feast for the thorough reader. In the end it's a very human book, a book about all of us. Highly recommended.
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Read information about the authorOliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
Sacks was the youngest of four children born to a prosperous North London Jewish couple: Sam, a physician, and Elsie, a surgeon. When he was six years old, he and his brother were evacuated from London to escape The Blitz, retreating to a boarding school in the Midlands, where he remained until 1943. During his youth, he was a keen amateur chemist, as recalled in his memoir Uncle Tungsten. He also learned to share his parents' enthusiasm for medicine and entered The Queen's College, Oxford University in 1951, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in physiology and biology in 1954. At the same institution, he went on to earn in 1958, a Master of Arts (MA) and an MB ChB in chemistry, thereby qualifying to practice medicine.
After converting his British qualifications to American recognition (i.e., an MD as opposed to MB ChB), Sacks moved to New York, where he has lived since 1965, and taken twice weekly therapy sessions since 1966.
Sacks began consulting at chronic care facility Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Service) in 1966. At Beth Abraham, Sacks worked with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades. These patients and his treatment of them were the basis of Sacks' book Awakenings.
His work at Beth Abraham helped provide the foundation on which the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), where Sacks is currently an honorary medical advisor, is built. In 2000, IMNF honored Sacks, its founder, with its first Music Has Power Award. The IMNF again bestowed a Music Has Power Award on Sacks in 2006 to commemorate "his 40 years at Beth Abraham and honor his outstanding contributions in support of music therapy and the effect of music on the human brain and mind".
Sacks was formerly employed as a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at the New York University School of Medicine, serving the latter school for 42 years. On 1 July 2007, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons appointed Sacks to a position as professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychiatry, at the same time opening to him a new position as "artist", which the university hoped will help interconnect disciplines such as medicine, law, and economics. Sacks was a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and maintained a practice in New York City.
Since 1996, Sacks was a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature). In 1999, Sacks became a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. Also in 1999, he became an Honorary Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford. In 2002, he became Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class IV—Humanities and Arts, Section 4—Literature). and he was awarded the 2001 Lewis Thomas Prize by Rockefeller University. Sacks was awarded honorary doctorates from the College of Staten Island (1991), Tufts University (1991), New York Medical College (1991), Georgetown University (1992), Medical College of Pennsylvania (1992), Bard College (1992), Queen's University (Ontario) (2001), Gallaudet University (2005), University of Oxford (2005), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (2006). He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. Asteroid 84928 Oliversacks, discovered in 2003 and 2 miles (3.2 km) in diameter, has been named in his honor.
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