A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes brain cells begin to die. In fact, Maloney was not having a stroke at the time but transient ischemic attacks. Commonly known as TIAs, or mini-strokes, they are temporary interruptions of blood flow that don't destroy brain cells or cause permanent disability. But each TIA increases the risk of stroke and warns that one could occur if nothing is done to prevent it.
Maloney and George drove to a local urgent-care center. "Look, I'm having a stroke," Maloney told the doctor authoritatively. "You're not having a stroke," he recalls the doctor replying. The doctor attributed his symptoms to stress and diagnosed a migraine headache.
As the weekend progressed, Maloney felt helpless. He couldn't convince the doctor. He couldn't tell Margaret, for fear that another medical emergency would send her over the edge. Sunday afternoon he felt normal enough to run the Stanford Dish, a hilly loop near the university. He kept up with his son that day, but the 40-minute jog did him in.
Around 4 o'clock, Sean was home with an awful headache and feeling "really weird," he told George. "I went up and sat on my bed," he recalls, "and the stroke happened." He fell back. He saw George walk into the bedroom, and then Brigid, crying. He saw the ceiling, white and full of stars. "George laid me down on the floor," he recalls. "Then there was the ambulance. Then I don't know."
Maloney's stroke resulted from a clot in his left carotid artery, the main supplier of blood to the brain's left hemisphere. The left hemisphere controls movement in the right side of the body and, for most people, speech as well. So Maloney couldn't talk. By midnight he recognized Margaret. But his prognosis was uncertain. The doctors didn't know whether Maloney would ever walk or talk again.
Meanwhile, there was business to take care of. On Monday, Margaret spoke to Otellini, who said he would ask his general counsel whether Intel had to disclose the news immediately; in any case, he said, the company would work with her on the announcement.
The art of the press release became a family affair. Oldest daughter Rachel flew in from England. She and George and Brigid didn't want Intel to disclose that their dad had had a stroke. "Your dad is not a child," Margaret chided, adding, "The odds have always been against him, and he has never sugarcoated anything." Grove, who survived the Holocaust and detailed his own cancer battle in Fortune in 1996, told the kids that being "upfront" is the responsible way to go. The family decided to let the man who could not speak decide what language to use in the release. Holding a draft in front of him, Margaret asked Sean to choose "stroke" or "minor stroke" or leave out the detail. With his left index finger, Sean pointed to "stroke."
During his first week in Stanford Hospital, Maloney's kids wanted to keep visitors at bay. But he had a different opinion. "I wanted Paul to see in my eyes that I would be back," he says of Otellini. When the Intel chief and Grove came in looking "appropriately white," Maloney recalls, "I was thinking, 'It's okay! It's me!' " He adds, "I have no problem thinking, but I can't speak. Do you know what that's like? That's terrible."
Maloney devised various ways to entertain and express himself. By Tuesday, 48 hours after the stroke, he was reading a book about Chinese history. When Margaret brought in a pile of books, he picked out Heart of Darkness, the Joseph Conrad classic. Maloney would point his finger at passages for her to read -- passages that reflected his emotions at the moment.
You can imagine what those emotions were: frustration, anger, impatience. "By Wednesday or Thursday, I was thinking, 'How can I come back?' " he recalls, adding, "I had to get back." A few days after the stroke, the right side of his body came back to life. One of the first words he was able to croak out was "now," which the hospital staff started to hear -- a lot. One time the hospital issued an APB to locate Maloney. He had made his way all the way to another wing to visit baby Catherine. When he moved to a rehab facility in San Francisco, he was supposed to stay a month. Ten days later he was heading home to Palo Alto.