Some years ago we saw the movie Awakenings, a traumatic experience. A young doctor serves a hospital ward where everyone is catatonic.
(About 1920 a dreadful epidemic broke out of a disease called Sleeping Sickness. The last catatonic sufferers may still be in the back ward of some hospital. The doctors discovered a wonder drug (L-DOPA) that brought these unfortunate invalids out of their catatonia. Unfortunately, after some days of jubilant living, they relapsed. Awakenings is a sort of docu-drama of this tremendous event, now almost forgotten.)
Then the other day Ellie brought home a book by Oliver Sacks entitled Awakenings. It's the source of the movie. In Awakenings Dr. Oliver shares with us a number of case histories of the course of the disease in the lives of people who had been catatonic since WWI, or the twenties.
John Donne figured largely in the book. Among Sacks' many quotations I found in Meditation 22:
"There is a propenseness to diseases in the body, out of which, without any other disorder, diseases will grow.."
His case histories bear considerable comparison to the suffering actors in Awakening. One primary difference is that in their treatment each patient had a somewhat different course. Some relapsed completely, others less so.
It's scary to consider how such a disease can take your neurological capability in such a startling and complete way. OMG! To be frozen physically while the brain continues to function, perhaps normally in the beginning, but surely less and less normally as the years go by.
However under the influence of L-DOPA when these people awoke they were very much in the 'present' from which they had departed so abuptly. As in the twenties, some of the women acted and seemed to think like flappers, etc.
They came to realize that they had lost 40, 50 years of their lives, but often without apparent resentment; they seemed too glad to be alive again. They had the same personalities and intellectual functions which they had surrendered back then.
I don't know whether it's instructive to meditate on something like this, or just shocking. Long ago I lost my taste for being shocked.
How does it affect you, dear reader?