Stephen Hawking has revealed how, while writing his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time , he came so close to death that his doctors offered his family the option to switch off his life-support machine and end his “agony.”
But his then wife, Jane, refused and made sure that he got the best medical care to survive what he describes as a “near-death experience.” Ten years later, the couple divorced as his illness drove their family life into a “black hole” of despair, according to Jane.
Hawking’s brush with death came in 1985 in Switzerland when he contracted a severe chest infection that turned into pneumonia, The Sunday Times said, quoting him as saying that it was the “darkest” period of his life.
“It was very serious and I was put into a drug-induced coma and then on a life-support machine. The doctors thought I was so far gone that they offered [his first wife] Jane [the option] to turn off the machine,” says the 71-year-old scientist in a film to be released in the autumn to coincide with the publication of his memoirs.
Jane, he recalls with affection, went to great lengths to save his life even though their marriage was under considerable strain.
“Jane refused to turn it [the machine] off. She insisted I be flown back to Cambridge.”
The recovery, he says, was not easy.
“The weeks of intensive care which followed were the darkest of my life. But slowly the drugs worked, though a small incision in my throat robbed me of my ability to talk. I was then put on a ventilator and hopes of finishing my book seemed over,” he says.