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Norman Cousins’ Accomplishments

Thirteen years ago, I was asked to care for a patient with advanced lung cancer for whom all available therapies had been tried and had failed. The patient was understandably despondent. Cousins had just published his article, “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient,” and though I had neither met nor spoken to him before, I called and asked if he would offer my patient some encouragement. He explained that he was leaving for China the following day, at the request of then-President Carter, but volunteered to postpone his packing and come to the hospital immediately to visit the patient. He visited for close to two hours. During the next week, he called the patient every day until he arrived in China, from where he said regular calls would be difficult to place. He called again as soon as he left China, and visited the patient again.

During the past 13 years, Norman was always available to meet with patients in this manner. He had earned a kind of celebrity status in medical matters as a result of his widely read books on his own illnesses and recovery, yet he retained the same personal concern for others that he had shown in our first contact. He spent his time graciously.

Two weeks before his death he attended a luncheon to help launch a nonprofit, computer-based information resource for the nation. He was constantly looking for ways in which he could improve our lives.

I stand in awe of his accomplishments, and I will miss him.

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AVRUM BLUMING, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Southern California


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