Med Humanities 31:105-108 doi:10.1136/jmh.2005.000216
  • Odyssey

The experience of stroke and the life of the Spirit

  1. Ben de la Mare
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr Ben de la Mare
 216, Gilesgate, Durham, DH1 1QN, UK
  • Received 5 September 2005
  • Accepted 22 September 2005


In this paper, I have tried in the first instance to describe the experience of stroke, and to set my own story in the context of more general observations on strokes and on the appropriate care of stroke patients. The paper makes clear that the stroke brought my active working life to an abrupt end, but I am keen to stress that in my case at least the thinking must go on. The production of this paper offers a test case of this last proposition. The paper does not attempt to survey my whole working life (mainly as a Church of England parish priest) and its interaction with my faith, but it does try to explore some of the consequences for faith, and for prayer, prompted by the stroke.

There is a personal story of sometimes bewildering complexity behind every stroke. “But why is stroke any different from other serious illness?” This paper seeks to identify some of the distinctive characteristics of strokes; but I leave it to others to answer the question more adequately. It only needs to be stated here that all strokes, in some measure, affect mental processes, sometimes profoundly; and we easily underestimate the extent to which our performance is affected by our states of mind.