The old joke — 'my only exercise is acting as a pallbearer for friends who exercise' — is no laughing matter for Andrew Marr. He has been interviewed on his own show this morning and revealed what induced his stroke: a session on a rowing machine.
"I'd had two minor strokes, it turned out, in that year – which I hadn't noticed – and then I did the terrible thing of believing what I read in the newspapers, because the newspapers were saying what we must all do is take very intensive exercise, in short bursts, and that's the way to health. Well, I went on to a rowing machine and gave it everything I had, and had a strange feeling afterwards – a blinding headache, and flashes of light – served out the family meal, went to bed, woke up the next morning lying on the floor unable to move. And what I'd done, I'd torn the carotid artery, which takes blood into the brain, and had a stroke overnight – which basically wipes out a bit of your brain."
He talks about it in the audio, below.
It reminds me of Andrew Lansley's story, which he told me seven years ago for a Spectator interview speaking about his stroke for the first time.
In his case, it was induced by cricket. I published only a few quotes at the time, but in the light of the Marr incident perhaps CoffeeHousers may be interested in reading on. Here's Lansley, in his own words:
'I was playing cricket, for a team down in Rochester at Kings School, Rochester in July 1992, after the election. Relaxing. And I was in the out field, I went to pick up a ball, stood up again and suddenly I couldn’t stand straight. I thought “this is very odd.” I tried to stabilise myself on the pitch, but I had lost my balance. I walked down to the pavilion and sat down, but it got progressively worse. To the point where I could not sit up. I was literally lying on the floor. My brother called the ambulance and I went to hospital and started to get better. They asked me to walk along a line, and said it was probably an ear infection. I stayed overnight, and woke up with my balance restored. My father came and got me, but my wife – being an GP – said I had no raised temperature.
'In fact, she said I had no symptoms of ear infection, no raised temperature, nothing. Now it was true, and continues to be true, that if you have somebody who knows their way about, you can argue your way through the [NHS] system without being dismissed by the authorities. We badgered the GP so much that he eventually sent me off to have an MRI scan. It was quite unusual in those days.
'As she is a doctor, they talked her through it. They were all chatting away merrily as the results came in, then they suddenly all went a bit quiet. The pictures came up with bits of dead brain. It shows areas coming up as black, because there is no blood passing through. It sees in the brain the blood passing through, it identifies the distribution of blood from soft tissue. They all thought it was brain tumour. That would be normal for someone in their mid-30s...clearly I must have had a stroke.
'I went to Hammersmith Hospital where they had a research project into stroke. My vertebrae basilica artery had split - for reasons that I never know to this day. Within an artery, there is an outer wall and an inner wall and a spongey tissue in between the two. For some reason the inner wall had split. Imagine if you stretch your neck over a basin when you have your hair wash. That has been know to lead to this. In my case, it could have been turning my head while driving the car or sneezing too hard with too much back pressure.
'It could have killed me. It was just a chance event that the net result for me was just losing my balance.'