To Olivia, a new film on Sky Cinema, captures the year (1962) that author Roald Dahl’s daughter died of measles encephalitis. The death of 7-year-old Olivia nearly tore the family apart. This terrible story will be new to many people, but it’s not new to me. I first heard it 30 years ago from Dahl himself.
I was a junior doctor in Oxford and 74-year-old Dahl was my patient. He was hospitalized with a rare form of leukemia, and every third night when I was on call, we would talk late into the night. As the weeks went on and it became clear he was not going to recover, he became more thoughtful about his own life.
He told me about Olivia one evening as I sat by his bed. She caught measles during an outbreak at her school. Initially, it was just a mild illness.
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