“The influenza pandemic of 1918 was followed by another epidemic. The disease was encephalitis lethargica, or the sleepy sickness, and like influenza it spread through most of the world. Its symptoms were extraordinarily varied — most commonly there was lethargy, but sometimes there was insomnia, and even frenzy; sometimes there were paralyses, sometimes mental disorders.”
Of the million or so people who came down with encephalitis lethargica during this period, half a million died in the acute stages of the illness; most of the survivors, people who appeared to have recovered, went on to develop, sometimes decades later, a variety of neurological problems, including a crippling form of parkinsonism.”
Oliver Sacks, New York Times, November 2005
Awakenings is a 1990 American drama film based on Oliver Sacks’s 1973 memoir of the same name. It tells the story of a fictional character, neurologist Dr. Malcolm Sayer, who is based on Sacks and played by Robin Williams. In 1969, he discovered beneficial effects of the drug L-Dopa. He administers it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–1928 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica.