Professor Stephen Hawking, one of Cambridge’s most renowned physicists, has revealed that a severe bout of pneumonia in the 1980s almost led Swiss doctors to switch off his life support machine.
Addressing over 200 delegates at the launch of the European Global Tracheostomy Collaborative (GTC) at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, Hawking said, “they thought I was so far gone they offered to turn off the ventilator. But I was flown back to Cambridge. The doctors there tried hard to get me back to how I was before.”
After being diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease three decades ago, Hawking underwent a tracheostomy, in which an artificial airway was inserted into his windpipe. Funded by the Health Foundation, around 15,000 of these vital procedures are performed in England and Wales each year.
For patients like Hawking, such interventions have been instrumental in prolonging and improving quality of life, despite the effects of degenerative disease. The 72 year old author of A Brief History of Time said: “For the last three years I have been on full-time ventilation but this has not prevented me from leading a full and active life.”