MY heart goes out to the BBC’s “Renaissance Man” Andrew Marr following his stroke at the age of 53.
I was a few months younger than that when I had mine a decade ago. Like Marr I was a jogger (my stroke came two years after I ran the London Marathon) and, although I cannot claim anything like his enormous work output, I had just completed a Master’s degree, was a full-time Fleet Street journalist, a visiting lecturer at a university and a media consultant on the side.
My life was pretty manic.
Between them, my son (who found me collapsed), the paramedics and the excellent Royal London Hospital saved my life.
But Marr’s news reminded me of the dark moments when I regained consciousness in the Intensive Care Unit, not knowing what year it was or who the Prime Minister was and finding myself unable to read a splash headline in The Sun without covering it up and then exposing one character at a time.
A wonderful nurse shepherded me through my dark night of the soul; I knew I could cope with the situation as it was, but I was terrified it would get worse..and I wasn’t confident of coping with that; it was the fear of what could be that was the worst thing; not of what was.
After that I just got stubborn: I did press-ups beside my bed and sat zazen on top of it on my safu – much to the bewilderment of staff and other patients.
The hospital staff and follow-up therapists (all NHS) were fantastic; they had me reading, writing and even sub-editing after a few months.
My right hand didn’t work too well and nor did my arithmetic; so, once released, I spent afternoons in the local pub drinking Coke and playing darts, reminding myself of my “finishes” and working on that duff hand (I’m right-handed).
I recovered enough to spend several years in a “second career” as a university lecturer and am now a full-time PhD student.
And the point of all this?
I guess it’s always useful to remember dark times and their challenges, particularly when the glorious dawn that followed recedes into the past.
So, if I have any advice for Andrew, it is simply: get stubborn; sometimes, when rationale falters and energy weakens, that’s all you have left. And it’s a much underestimated resource.