In the October 6, 2018, Wall Street Journal, Suzanne O’Sullivan previews her new book, Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology. She explains how technology can deceive us with its wonderful images into thinking that it can provide all the answers. It does not. Technology cannot replace “the old-fashioned, personal process of gathering information from the patient”. “The interpretation of test results depends entirely on what we learn from the details of their stories, comparison to other patients, and our own intuitions.”
Vision takes place in the same brain-body continuum. Aspects of evaluating vision and trying to normalize visual function has many parallels in neurology. Our brains cause sensations in our bodies as our bodies cause sensations in our brains. Narrative medicine is not only what patients say. Part of their story is revealed by how they tell it and part is told by what they do and how they do it. Observation is part of listening.
Suzanne O’Sullivan’s previous book, It’s All in Your Head told stories about psychosomatic diseases. Due to her focus on the person, not the disease, her stories are reminiscent of those told by Oliver Sacks. As she states in the concluding sentence of the article, “Listening to patients who have overcome the most perplexing of disabilities has a lot to teach us – and not just doctors – about our own humanity and the power of resilience.”