Andrew Marr, the BBC journalist, appeared once again for a short time on his programme this morning.
It must have been a huge physical and emotional effort, four months after his major stroke. To many people this will seem a long time, but in terms of stroke recovery four months is a short period. Professional that he is, most of his remarks concentrated on the topic of the day – the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. As one would expect, Andrew Marr spoke intelligently about this. His face and speech have a slight legacy of their own from the stroke and I suspect he felt as I still feel sometimes when speaking in public that my voice is somewhat disembodied, not quite my own. The sort of feeling you can get after a visit to the dentist, when you’ve been given a numbing injection and your face feels not wholly part of you. But as he said, he is lucky to have both mind and voice intact.
He also gave us a brief account of how his stroke happened – a burst of all-out effort on a rowing machine, triggering damage to the carotid artery, leading to a stroke, leading to a life utterly changed. He mentioned a continuing period of demanding, intensive physiotherapy to try to improve his weakened left side: I do not know whether he is getting this through the NHS or an independent provider. In most parts of the UK, he would be very unlikely to receive intensive physiotherapy through the NHS. Like most stroke survivors, he will have to learn to “self-manage” his condition, to use the jargon employed by medical professionals when formal “treatment” comes to an end.
Andrew Marr mentioned physical recovery only, but he has probably already realised that mental and emotional recovery from stroke is just as huge an effort as the physical – and for the “self-management” of that effort he will need all his reserves of courage and determination in an uncharted land.
I wish him well.
I was excited to see Andrew Marr back in the studio today. He did well, and if I remember correctly, he said he would have more to say about his experience. Whether NHS or private, I hope he will have something to say about the inadequacies of NHS physiotherapy for stroke victims. He was extremely clear today about the importance of extended intensive physiotherapy.