一个小时前，医生同意马宏升出院时曾告诉他，“我不确定你还能不能划船。”——潜台词是，也许今后永远都不能再划船了。马宏升和玛格丽特刚把车停到旧金山湾布莱尔岛划船俱乐部（Bair Island rowing club）的停车场，马宏升就迫不及待地打开车门跑了出去。“他的右臂根本用不上力，”玛格丽特回忆说，“他用左手抬起一艘小船，揭开盖在上面的帆布，把艇冲洗干净，然后又把帆布重新盖上。”
On that momentous day there was a stop on the way. Margaret remembers driving toward Silicon Valley as Sean, in the passenger seat beside her, excitedly pointed and grunted directions: "Uhhh ... Uhhh ... Uhhh!" When she realized where her husband was taking her, she could hardly believe it.
An hour earlier the doctor who had released Sean told him, "I'm not sure you'll be able to row" -- implying ever. When he and Margaret pulled into the parking lot at the Bair Island rowing club in San Francisco Bay, Sean could hardly wait to get out. "His right arm was practically useless," Margaret recalls. "With his left arm, he lifted the boat. He uncovered it, washed it off, and put the cover back on."
The next morning Margaret was relaxing, happy to have Sean back home. Suddenly he appeared, dressed in his rowing clothes and pointing toward the car. Margaret called Jean-Pierre van Tiel, an Intel marketing executive who was Sean's rowing buddy. Meet us at the bay as soon as you can, she told J.P. When they got there, Sean and J.P. took out a double scull. Every five strokes J.P. straightened the boat. In the weeks that followed, Maloney took to rowing alone, at first in circles ("I nearly cried," he says) but straighter and straighter each time.
Learning to speak has been Maloney's toughest challenge. The stroke zapped a walnut-size section of his brain that produces language, so he has had to learn to speak from the right side of his brain. Speech pathologist Lisa Levine Sporer started off having Sean do word drills and read children's books aloud -- so he could get back to reading to Catherine and his twins, Anna and Alexandra. To help him relearn the "flow and melody of speech," Sporer says, they read poetry -- Keats, Byron, and Tennyson, his mother's favorite -- standing up, because talking to 1,000 people is, for Maloney, the natural way of speaking. He rarely got down on himself, but on a day that he did, Sporer wrote on an index card, "You have Great Potential." Maloney pinned the card to a bulletin board in his office.
Maloney got encouragement from neighbors as well. Once a month or so the doorbell would ring, and he or Margaret would open the door. There on the doorstep would be Steve Jobs asking whether Sean could come out and, well, play. "Like this nice, giant adult kid," Margaret recalls. The Apple (AAPL) founder, whose battle against pancreatic cancer began in 2004, occasionally walked and biked around the neighborhood with Maloney.
On Jan. 3, 10 months after suffering his stroke, Maloney returned to Intel. It's required some adjustment on both sides. Citing Intel's aggressive culture, chief marketing officer Deborah Conrad says, "Sean would be the guy setting the pace." That's changed. Maloney now prefers one-on-one meetings. And in the obligatory large meetings where everyone talks over each other, it helps when friends like Conrad pipe up and say, "Hold on, Sean has an opinion," giving him air. Three weeks after he returned, he made his first major public appearance at Intel's international sales and marketing conference and told 3,700 colleagues, "I've trained the right side of my brain to take over speech, normally a function of the left side. It's the hardest thing I have ever done."
His speech is slow and robotic, as if he is searching for every word. In fact, he is. "I just have to make the words better," he says when we meet in July at Intel's Santa Clara headquarters. During a 90-minute interview (we did two, on consecutive days), he demonstrates that his body is back -- he can hardly sit still, pacing frequently. When I ask how far his speech has returned, he dashes around the conference table to a big whiteboard on the wall. "I was here," he says, using a red marker to draw a horizontal line indicating his skill level when he had his stroke. He draws a 45-degree angle and points to a spot about 15% shy of the top. "I'm now here," he says. "And I need to get here," he explains, moving the marker to the pinnacle.