A SHORT EXTRACT FROM MY BOOK ‘STIRLING’
THE FLICKERING cine film has all the compulsive horror of the footage of the John F. Kennedy assassination.
In a sickening blur of speed, the Walker Lotus 18/21 racing car leaves the track and bucks violently as it surges out of control over the rough verge and slams into a grassy bank.
The driver – with no modern safety harness to protect him – can be seen being bounced out of his seat in the last, terrifying moments before impact.
He is left clinging helplessly to the steering wheel, his feet unable to reach the pedals as he hurtles towards his doom.
Later, one observer would recall having seen a plume of fire shooting from the rear of the car ‘like a burst from a flame gun’. He would also describe the ‘spontaneous gasp of apprehension’ when the crowd realised disaster was imminent.
This was the moment when the dazzling career of Stirling Moss, perhaps the greatest all-round racing driver the world has ever known, came to a brutally premature end at the age of 32.
From : http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-76709848.html
HE WOULD NOT WAKE UP PROPERLY FOR 38 DAYS!
Key Words/Tags: Stirling Moss, motor racing , motor racing books, Robert Edwards, Stirling, coma, head injury, brain injury
From: STIRLING MOSS: The Authorised Biography by Robert Edwards (Published by Cassell & Co, UK)
In 1962 Stirling Moss was in a coma for 38 days in Atkinson Morley Hospital, London
Meanwhile many people throughout the world prayed for the star driver’s healing… a collective appeal to Christ. And perhaps one of them was even a concerned young boy in Clovelly, Cape Town, South Africa.
Moss’s inability to speak was confusing, although the physical injuries were more familiar.
He did not immediately notice that he was effectively paralysed. The physical damage to the left side of his body was made worse by the fact he could not move it, the massive bruising his brain had received had to heal first. This would be frustrating to say the least, particularly since the extent of his injuries were not initially revealed to him. The patient assumed that he could not move because he was injured, rather than because his brain would simply not allow it. His friend, David Haynes finally revealed the truth; although it depressed Stirling, it also caused him to fight his condition harder, initially to no avail.
The neurology department closely monitored his progress. And these are the words of one occupational therapist:
“We didn’t know very much about motor racing, of course; but none of us really thought he would ever drive again – he had been so very badly hurt, but he tried so hard.”
Very slowly, he started to recover some motor function, and as the bruised brain gradually repaired itself, he was more and more able to push himself physically, even within the confines of a wheelchair.
As the physical injuries started to heal and the papers became full of optomistic stories concerning Stirling’s imminent return to racing, he turned to his colleague Berenice Krikler, the resident clinical psychologist at Atkinson Morley. But what condition was he really in?
And meanwhile the concerned young boy many thousands of kilometres away at the Southern tip of Africa sent this letter to his hero… unconscious in a deep coma at the Morley Hospital in London
“Hope you get better very soon and that you will win the World Championship this year
Krikler knew next to nothing about motor racing (that would soon change) and therefore lacked any kind of benchmark against which to measure Stirling’s attributes. However a number of Grand Prix drivers, such as Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham offered their services to construct the sort of baseline, which she needed as a starting point.
The essence of her study was a series of reactive, cognitive and personality observations, using both the racing drivers and a control sample of intelligent and experienced motorists. She sought some standard by which Stirling could be judged.
As she collated and analysed the results, it became quite clear to Krikler that by these measures Stirling had better not get back into a racing car. On the section of the test concerning visual co-ordination and concentration, Stirling scored the maximum measurable deficit against the control groups. When she told him, he clearly did not fully appreciate what had happened to him, nor did he (or anyone else, for that matter) , have any idea whether this would be a permanent or shifting state.
The report was kept confidential at the time, but was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in February 1965, nearly three years after Stirling’s crash.
He was always very good at appearing helpless, but was always
*committed (totally, perhaps a bit obsessive)
So whilst the press speculated in the “silly season” of late summer and early autumn about Stirling’s imminent return to motor racing, the cruel reality was that he had to lean up against a wall to put his socks on in the morning, he was unable to see straight and was virtually incapable of making properly understood.
He left Atkinson Morley on 20th July 1962.
But his affable personality had changed; so he got easily frustrated and angry. Stirling was still extremely unwell, but did not realise it. His ability to accept the damage done by him to the Goodwood injuries extended only to the idea that he had been slowed down a little, that his reflexes and concentration had obviously suffered and that he might, one day, re-adress the matter of racing. In terms of the effect upon the rest of his activities, he was outwardly dismissive and quite unable to come to terms with the reality of what had happened to him. In truth, the cause of what had happened interested him rather more than the resultant damage which had been inflicted upon him.
But Berenice Krikler’s clinical report, which Stirling was most reluctant to read, stated quite firmly and categorically that he was brain damaged. He was not mad or crazy, but he was severely injured. Those around him, both professionally and personally, could see it; he could not or would not. If it made his friends more protective (and they remain so to this day) then this produced in him a form of obstinacy, which when combined with his own natural impulsiveness, could lead him into perilous territory.
As Ken Gregory (his manager) put it: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the man who came out of the Atkinson Morley was not the same man who went in.” Brain injuries are terrible things, and not only because of their obvious effects. Their victims frequently cannot grasp what has happened. In Stirling’s case, perhaps because the issues were not properly explained to him in physical terms that he could relate to, he chose to press on regardless. It would cost him dear.
Meanwhile Berenice had also observed him well enough to know that his own sense of perfectionism would not allow him to delude himself about any shortcomings in his performance. She had noted in her report that: “Racing drivers differ significantly from the controls (the regular motorists) in that they are more stable in their judgement of their performance. With racing drivers there is a trend towards a higher level of aspiration.”
His co-ordination was still a ragged shadow of its former self, but felt he needed to earn a living as well as to concentrate.
After testing a Lotus 19 sports car, he realised with a dawning sense of horror that Berenice Krikler had been exactly right in her assessment (and later, as they became better acquainted, that her confidence in his own acuity about himself had also been spot on). All the flowing instincts, the unthinking balancing, unbalancing and rebalancing of the car were absent. If his relationship with a racing car had once been a sensuous dance, it was now more like a vaguely recalled hop with a mere acquaintance. There was no flow. It was a disjointed, disconnecting experience… thoroughly depressing.
This was a devastating revelation for him.”
And a year later announced his retirement from the sport that he had loved since a young boy…
‘It was an easy decision to make at the time, because it was the only decision to take. I had to think. I had to give orders to myself – here I’ll brake, here I must change down, and so on. And another thing; I used to be able to look at the rev counter without taking my eyes off the road – not only that, but I could see the rev counter and a friend waving to me all at the same time. I’d lost that, that had gone.’”
– from ‘All But My Life’ by Ken Purdy
The above extract is from: STIRLING MOSS: The Authorised Biography by Robert Edwards (Published by Cassell & Co, UK)
About the submitter:
Craig has been researching and studying in this field for nearly twenty years stemming from a long-standing head injury. He hopes that by sharing that it will make some difference in those lives affected by brain injury. He is `currently writing his novel ‘Stirling’ – a story, stories of hope. Perhaps even true!
The various books that Craig “felt inspired to write” (including Stirling’ ‘The Grand Prize’ and The Driver, The Nurse and The Writer’) are already all available at: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005GGMAW4
He is currently “writing/finishing off” ‘Stirling’ , ‘The Prize’ (Grand) and The Driver, The Nurse and The Writer (or rather the stories “seem to be writing themselves”)
Stirling is available at http://www.amazon.com/Stirling-ebook/dp/B004YTT4GO and
The Driver, the Nurse and the Writer is available at
My blog on head injury is at https://headbraininjury.wordpress.com/
Other blogs on this subject are at http://thenurseanewbook.wordpress.com/
“We share what we know, so that we all may grow.”
“Let’s not what we can’t do stop us from doing what we CAN do…best!”
“The important thing is not to win, but to take part.
The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”
“Together, one mind, one soul at a time, let’s see how many people we can impact, empower, encourage and perhaps even inspire to reach their fullest potentials.”