马宏升在伦敦东南部长大，是家里六个孩子中最小的。他15岁就辍学了。但这并不意味着马宏升是个坏孩子。马宏升是反新纳粹运动的左翼团体社会党劳动联盟(Socialist Labor League)的一名年轻成员，他曾多次组织反政府示威，并凭借个人魅力和激情赢得了众人的拥戴。马宏升的父亲埃迪可能是唯一一个对儿子的魅力免疫的人，他后来甚至与这个叛逆的儿子形同陌路。埃迪一辈子都在一家化学染料工厂工作，最终在工厂车间中毒身亡。就在埃迪去世前不久，他在路上遇到一个集会，第一次看到自己的儿子公开演讲。“这小子演说很有一套，”埃迪后来跟马宏升的母亲说，“这点本事将来要么用来做大事，要么做坏事。但不管怎样，他都能鼓舞别人的斗志。”
“一旦你能够证明自己的盈利潜力，人们就会无限认可你的能力。”——库茨对马洛说，约瑟夫•康拉德《黑暗之心》（Heart of Darkness）。
两年前，马宏升的人生光明无比。当时，他刚刚年满54岁，已经是硅谷英特尔公司（Intel）的执行副总裁。外界一致看好他将成为首席执行官欧德宁的头号接班人。加盟英特尔之前，马宏升从泰晤士理工大学（Thames Polytechnic University）辍学，并曾短暂供职于巴克莱公司（Barclays）。在英特尔工作期间，马宏升获得时任首席执行官安迪•格罗夫的关注，被提拔担任技术助理——类似于研究和助理人员主管。格罗夫回忆称，1994年，公司因数百万有瑕疵的奔腾处理器而陷入危机，马宏升“表现得就像一台发动机”。这位不屈不挠的问题解决者有一次穿上派克大衣、戴上护目镜，全副武装，打扮成英国南极探险家欧内斯特•沙克尔顿的样子，向员工发表演讲。员工们都沸腾了。“（他是）世界上最擅长交流的人之一，”欧德宁回忆说。
那是一个星期四，一个改变了马宏升命运的日子。当时他正在出差途中，但他马上赶回家里，陪在凯瑟琳身边。第二天，马宏升从医院的重症监护室看完孩子出来就感到身体不舒服。“我开始想，‘我说不了话了’，”他回忆说。他试着写一句话“敏捷的棕色狐狸从懒惰的狗的身上跳了过去” 【The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.（这句话包含了英语全部26个字母——译注）】，但是却不能将词语和字母按正确的顺序写出来。他把那张乱七八糟的字条拿给当时21岁的儿子乔治和20岁的女儿布里吉特看，要求他们瞒着玛格丽特，因为她当时还要照顾生病的婴儿和一对5岁大的双胞胎女儿。打开自己的电脑后，马宏升开始用Google搜索“语言”、“口齿不清”、“头疼”，以及其他任何能用来描述自己症状的词语。几分钟后他得出一个结论：“糟了，我中风了。”
Sean Maloney grew up in gritty South East London, last in a line of six kids, and got kicked out of school at age 15. Not that Sean was a bad kid. As a young member of the Socialist Labor League, a left-wing group pitched against a rising neo-Nazi movement, Sean organized antigovernment demonstrations and, with his charisma and passion, recruited followers. Perhaps the only person not charmed by the young man was Sean's father, Eddie, who had become estranged from his rebellious son. Then, just before Eddie Maloney died of poisoning in the chemical dye factory where he worked his whole life, he stopped by a rally and watched his son speak publicly for the first time. "That boy has a skill," Eddie told Sean's mother afterward. "He'll do something great with it or something terrible. Either way, he'll inspire people."
"You show them you have in you something that is really profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability." -- Kurtz to Marlow in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Two years ago life could not have looked brighter for Sean Maloney. At 54, he was a Silicon Valley-based executive vice president at Intel (INTC) and widely believed to be No. 1 in line to succeed CEO Paul Otellini. Having joined Intel after dropping out of Thames Polytechnic University and working briefly at Barclays, Maloney caught the eye of former Intel CEO Andy Grove, who made the young man his technical assistant -- sort of a chief of staff cum researcher. Grove remembers that in 1994, when the company was managing a crisis over millions of flawed Pentium chips, Maloney "was a dynamo." An indefatigable problem-solver, Maloney once addressed a group of employees dressed as explorer Ernest Shackleton -- parka, goggles, and all. The crowd went wild. "One of the world's best communicators," Otellini recalls.
Maloney, who had five children, also was a workaholic who embraced the punishing travel schedule and long hours, all the while taking on heady physical challenges -- tearing down ski runs, racing his scull at 6 a.m. every day with a much younger rowing buddy. This extreme behavior often taxed his co-workers and family, but they would prove to be the keys to the remarkable physical and mental recovery he was about to embark on -- a journey Maloney and his family have not discussed publicly until now.
In October 2009 during a routine visit to her doctor, Maloney's wife, Margaret, who was expecting twins, learned that one of the fetuses had lost a heartbeat. The best way to keep the other baby alive, her doctor advised, would be to carry both to term. On Jan. 4, 2010, she delivered five weeks early. Sean, who was off skiing during an annual winter vacation with his oldest children, raced back. The surviving twin, Catherine, at 4 pounds 11 ounces, seemed healthy. But six weeks later she stopped breathing and had to be rushed to Stanford Hospital.
Maloney hurried home again that fateful Thursday, this time from a business trip, to be at Catherine's side, and on Friday, after visiting the baby at the hospital's neonatal intensive-care unit, he felt sure that something was wrong with him too. "I started to think, 'I'm losing words,' " he recalls. He tried to write "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," but he couldn't get the words and letters to go in the right order. He showed his jumbled writing to his son George, then 21, and daughter Brigid, 20, making them promise not to tell Margaret, who had a sick baby plus 5-year-old twin girls in her charge. Getting on his computer, Sean Googled "speech," "mixed-up words," "headache" -- anything he could think of to describe his symptoms. It took him no more than a few minutes to reach a conclusion: " 'That's it,' I said to myself, 'I'm having a stroke.'"