It is hard to conceive of a worse nightmare that any mother or father could face. Having raised four children to adulthood and settled into a happy second marriage, Lu Spinney enjoyed a privileged life revolving around dinner parties with friends, boisterous family lunches and holidays in France. Then in March 2006 her eldest son, 29-year-old Miles, suffered devastating brain damage in a snowboarding accident, leaving him in the worst state imaginable – partially conscious, able to understand his condition and feel pain, yet unable to move, speak or do anything for himself. Locked in this ‘minimally conscious state’ for the next five years, Miles was imprisoned in his own body without hope of release.
Memoirs of illness and dying have filled bookshops in recent years. Marion Coutts’s searing book The Iceberg described her husband’s death from a brain tumour with uncompromising honesty, while more recently the American neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi told the story of his terminal cancer with wrenching sadness in When Breath Becomes