Exclusive: Sir Bob Parker speaks after devastating stroke

Source: Sunday

He’s one of New Zealand’s most iconic leaders, but Sir Bob Parker now struggles to remember the events that made him so well-known.

The former Christchurch mayor is recovering from a stroke that has dramatically affected his mind and body.

Speaking exclusively to TVNZ’s Sunday programme, an emotional Parker said he wanted do the television interview as a “personal task”.

“As you can hear, I don’t always speak straight. I just am what I am.”

In October, his wife, Lady Jo Nicholls-Parker, went for an early morning run in Christchurch’s Hagley Park. When she came home, she discovered her husband on the floor, slumped under the dining table.

The 68-year-old had a brain bleed, leaving him paralysed down his left side. He is unable to walk, shower or dress himself.

Parker’s speech is softer and slower than many Kiwis will remember it.

“You don't wake up each day feeling like today's going to be a great day,” he says. “You just wake up each day not knowing what it'll be like at all.”

Before politics, Parker had an illustrious broadcasting career, fronting programmes like Miss Universe New Zealand and This Is Your Life.

He became Christchurch’s mayor in 2007 and led the city through major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, before retiring from politics in 2013.

Lady Jo Nicholls-Parker is open-minded about whether her husband’s previous working life contributed to the recent stroke.

“What was it that happened for Bob? Was it the stress of politics? Who knows. But I do know that he asked a lot of himself, and maybe that's – over time – just taken its toll.”

Joanne Lambert, chief executive of the Stroke Foundation, says strokes are expected to rise in New Zealand by up to 40 percent in the next decade.

“The reason why more people are having strokes is because of the lifestyles we lead. Lack of exercise, too much salt in our diets, high sugar, people working longer hours at stressful jobs. All of these factors contribute significantly to stroke.”

Along with improving our lifestyles, Lambert wants adults to have a blood pressure check – the main indicator of stroke risk – at least once a year.

Sir Bob Parker’s stroke means he now requires round-the-clock support. For now, he lives at a Christchurch care facility, where he is visited by his wife multiple times a day.

“He didn’t die, and he’s fought through some very difficult times,” says Nicholls-Parker. “We’re just on a new part of our journey.”

Over the past two months, TVNZ cameras have captured a raw, intimate and inspiring portrait of Parker’s recovery.

Watch the full story in the video at top of article.