The 1973 memoir of Dr Oliver Sacks entitled ‘Awakenings’ tells the story of his experimental use of the drug L-Dopa to treat survivors of the 1920s epidemic of sleeping sickness (encephalitis Lethargica).  The patients had been reduced to a trancelike state for three decades and high doses of L-Dopa (which stimulates the body’s production of dopamine) brought them back to life.  Once awakened, despite their non-recollection of the years that had passed, the patients were able to lead normal lives.  Unfortunately, the awakening was short-lived as the patients developed a tolerance to the drug and reverted to their former unresponsive condition.

The idea of someone being asleep for the majority of their lives is fascinating.  We wonder what they have missed, what would their lives have been had they experienced those missing years.  Dr Sacks’ patients never witnessed the golden years of the movie industry, the Wall Street Crash, the Second World War, Jazz, Rock n Roll, the assassinations of President John F Kennedy,