When my grandmother suffered a stroke in the 1960s, there was nothing doctors could do. Her remaining years were spent virtually immobile, babbling incoherently, locked in a physical and mental prison. She died a few years later, but the beloved grandmother I knew in early childhood had already gone, demolished, so to speak, ‘at a stroke’.
Since then, better medical knowledge of how the brain can repair itself, along with vastly improved rehabilitation services, has changed stroke care out of all recognition. As a result, people are now able to recuperate much more effectively. Broadcasters such as Andrew Marr and Chris Tarrant have recovered from strokes sufficiently to continue hosting television and radio shows, while writers such as Robert McCrum have returned to their careers and published books on their medical experiences.
McCrum, former literary editor and now associate editor of The Observer, described his recovery after a near-fatal stroke, aged forty-two, in 1995 in his acclaimed memoir My Year Off. But despite returning to a full and mostly active life, he has since lived, he says, in the ‘shadow