35. Patient H.M. : A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets

By Luke Dittrich

Rating: 5 out of 5

“Patient H.M. was, above all else, patient.”

H.M. is a famous patient.  In 1953, he was lobotomized in an effort to cure him of debilitating seizures.  I have heard of this man before, but I haven’t heard the whole story. This book is written by the grandson of the doctor. who performed this surgery.

The book is kind of jumping around in the first section, but this section ends like this:

The story of what they learned from patient H.M. and his incomplete brain, however, is itself greatly diminished without first learning the story of what led my grandfather to make those devastating, enlightening cuts.  That story is a dark one, full of the sort of emotional and physical pain, and fierce desires, that Patient H.M. himself couldn’t experience.  It’s a story that’s never been told, and even now, fingers on the keyboard, I hesitate. 

That emphasis at the end is mine.  I love that phrase.  It is just makes me want to read on.

I am really enjoying this book.  It is ostensibly about this famous patient H.M., but it covers a lot of the history of brain surgery, the history of trying to find out how the brain works, and the history of the author’s family.  I have a little trouble keeping track of all the scientists and doctors involved, but there is an index that helps me keep track.

This guy is a great storyteller, and he has some amazing stories to tell.

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