A couple of days later, she returned with a small library. She brought academic treatises which were, and remain, beyond me. (Susan Greenfield's excellent The Human Brain: A Guided Tour was still half a dozen years away.) But there was also Memoir of a Thinking Radish by Peter Medawar, who had won a Nobel Prize in 1960 for his work on immunology and organ transplantation. He suffered a number of strokes, which caused a massive right-sided cerebral haemorrhage and impaired the use of the left arm, left leg and the left half of each eye. Although of different provenance, these were my symptoms, too, so I read his account of the event and its consequences with interest and, as he described the various treatments and therapies to which he was subjected, trepidation. Much of his advice, however, was sound, particularly his tips for surviving hospital. Sample: "if you are well enough to read books, they are crucially important for entertainment and keeping the mind in working order. Some serious works should therefore be among them. Remember, however, that if you didn't quite follow Chomsky when you were well, there is nothing about illness that can give you an insight into the working of his mind."
I can also confirm that, if you were incapable of understanding neuroscience when well and sentient, there is no chance that you will gain wisdom reading the same stuff in a hospital bed. The academic stuff about the nature of the brain made absolutely no sense at all.
What did make sense was the wild card in my library, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For His Hat, by Oliver Sacks.
I did not have the same visual aphasia as the eponymous man - Dr P, as I recall. I did not mistake Jill for a hat - given Jill's striking good looks, I suspect that even Dr P would be hard pressed to make the confusion; but I did experience, at the time, some parallel issues, more dysphasic than aphasic.
For example, I 'mistook' a good-looking Afro-Caribbean night nurse for the great Sir Garfield Sobers and regaled him in the wee small hours with my recollections of his greatest achievements as bowler, batsman, fielder and skipper. I spent some days convinced that Jill and I were living in Paris, and several times asked her if she had time to nip down to the boulangerie by Notre Dame for croissants and decent coffee. I remember each of my visitors, but rather than the visits extending over the six or seven weeks of my stay in hospital, my brain compressed all into a single episode, in which I was hosting a farewell party for all my friends. Bizarre.
The major benefit of reading Sacks, however, was his belief that the essential self was unaffected by illness. Like R.D. Laing, he questioned what was normal and abnormal, healthy and unhealthy. And for someone recuperating from the attack on my brain, this was important.
Especially as the late Professor Hitchcock, who performed the two operations which saved my life from a clinical point of view, was not a man from this culture. He was a surgeon who understood exactly where the various bits of the brain were located and how they were linked. But there his role ended. If the patient was alive and made a full physical recovery, then he had done his job.
I was lucky. I had Dr Sacks to take over the next stage of my recovery. He was a scientist, but he was also a writer. He was a neurologist but also a psychologist and a psychiatrist at a time when none of those disciplines met. He brought a wider perspective to each individual's neurological issues.
Together with Jill, it was he who taught me to fight the numbness and the lethargy and to begin a self-initiated programme of physiotherapy. (It took over a week to get permission from the hospital to go outside and just walk!) It was he who taught me that, although I felt different, I was not fundamentally different.
And although my physical condition remains pretty much as it was when I left hospital, my mental state - I hope family and friends agree - is not that of a man with left-side numbness and a damaged hypothalamus.
That is due primarily to two people: Oliver Sacks, who died yesterday, and Jill Every, who celebrates her birthday today. I owe them both a great deal.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Yo La Tengo, a recent discovery. Working my way through their 2013 Hannukkah shows at the Bell House, with thanks to nyctaper.