VETERAN broadcaster Andrew Marr said yesterday that he feels “lucky to be alive” as he spoke for the first time about suffering a major stroke.
The 53-year-old presenter, who fell ill in January, said the stroke was sparked by an intensive rowing machine session and admitted he had been “heavily overworking”.
Speaking on his own programme, the Andrew Marr Show, the presenter said he was doing “a lot of physio” to help with his walking, and is trying to regain movement in his left arm, but added that he would be returning to work.
Appearing in a pre-recorded interview on Sunday’s programme, the journalist and television presenter took part in a discussion on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher before talking about his illness.
He told guest presenter Sophie Raworth: “I had a major stroke – I’m frankly lucky to be alive. I had been heavily overworking – mostly my own fault – in the year before that. I’d had two minor strokes it turned out, in that year, which I hadn’t
Marr admitted he had been following a recent health trend which encourages people to take “very intensive exercise in short bursts”. Describing the events leading up to his stroke he said: “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.
“In my case, luckily not my voice or memory or anything like that, but the whole left-hand side of my body, which is why I’m still not able to walk fluently – I do a kind of elegant hobble it’s the best I can manage; my left arm isn’t much good yet. I’ve got a lot of physio still to do.”
Marr was born in Glasgow and began his career in journalism on The Scotsman in 1981. He joined the newspaper as a trainee business reporter, before becoming a parliamentary correspondent and a political correspondent. He was part of the team which launched the Independent in 1986, later becoming its editor. He joined the BBC as political editor in May 2000.
Marr’s stroke shocked many of his colleagues – he was considered fit and enjoyed long-distance running.
However in an interview last year, Marr spoke of “utter exhaustion” after “two years, about two dozen countries, a blue and daze of airports and hundreds of thousands of words”.
For yesterday’s programme, Marr pre-recorded interviews with the Conservative former Cabinet minister Lord Parkinson and the Labour peer Baroness Kennedy on Saturday at Broadcasting House.
During yesterday’s programme, Marr assured Ms Raworth that he remained determined to return to full-time duties.
“The only way through is intensive physio and doing a lot of it. And I’m now in the period where if I really concentrate on the physio, I will get better, and if I don’t, I won’t. Which is why I’m not back trying to do the job full-time, I have to say,” he said. “I’m going to be taking your chair I’m absolutely sure, when I’m ready. I’m certainly coming back. I’ve got a lot more to say about it all, but I’m going to wait until I’ve gone through the physio to do so.”
He added: “Beware rowing machines, or at least beware being too enthusiastic on rowing machines would be my message to the nation.”
Although this was the first time Marr had been filmed after suffering a stroke, he was seen on our screens last week in a tribute programme following the death of Margaret Thatcher, which had been narrated before his illness.