Saturday, June 18, 2005

Inhabitants of the world of pain

In The Observer: Memoirs of a survivor.
Robert McCrum tells us about his stroke.
Ten years on it seems like a dream, a hallucination, or a nightmare. Occasionally, in the morning, I will wake and wonder, "Did it really happen?" But of course it did; I have what doctors call the 'deficits' to prove it. For me, amid all the late-Nineties talk of the millennium, the apocalypse came early.

This defining moment caught me unawares. I went to bed on the night of 28 July fit, 42 and fully articulate. I woke up next morning semi-paralysed, prematurely aged and scarcely able to speak. In medical jargon, I'd suffered 'an insult to the brain', a right-hemisphere haemorrhagic infarct.

The brain is only 1.4kg of grey matter. You could hold it in the palm of your hand. But it's you and it's me - my command post, my HQ, my language, my movement, and my window on the world. Oscar Wilde once wrote: 'It is in the brain that everything takes place... It is in the brain that the poppy is red, that the apple is odorous, that the skylark sings.'

So 'the insult to the brain' is not any old affront. It's a colossal four-letter word, the ultimate Expletive Deleted, a cataclysm at the centre of who we are...

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