The second-hardest thing | March 13, 2015 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 13, 2015

The second-hardest thing

Learning to talk again following a stroke was tough, but now tech exec Sean Maloney is embarking on cross-country bicycle ride

by Chris Kenrick

Sean Maloney was a high-flying, 54-year-old Intel executive when, five years ago, a devastating stroke left him without the ability to speak.

This story contains 1977 words.

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Contributing Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at [email protected]


Posted by Mark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:38 am

Good luck, God speed, and may the wind be at your back.

I had a stroke 10 years ago and was 99 % paralyzed when I awoke laying on my back on a gurney looking up and firemen looking down at me and couldn't move for some mysterious reason--no matter what I did--it was like exactly like I awoke in a horror movie and my family, and friends were all drug into it too--by virtue of association with me.

It took one week of struggling to figure out how to move my big toe--staring down at it in bed at Stanford--until I saw a slight twitch. From there after 6 weeks at Stanford in rehab, I went from a wheel chair, to a walker, to a cane, I ultimately learn to walk again albeit it with a foot drop, then I relearned to ride a bike again which was my muse for more than 20 years prior to the stroke. Central pain syndrome set in after two months however and things went from horrible to a nightmare. CPS put me right back in bed again for two years with invisible neuropathic pain which was completely debilitating and no one seemed to understand what and why it h ad happened until diagnosed at Stanford Pain Center. Then I found a pain physician (Bernard Wilcosky in Redwood City) formerly an employee and co-founder-along with the late Dr Elthrington--of the Stanford pain center-- and he put together an ever changing group of medications which ultimately allowed me to resume my physical recovery. Ten years later, I I have switched over to road bike riding and I am now riding a new Trek Bike for the guys at Palo Alto Bikes too, which is again wonderful although still difficult because of "foot drop" weakness on my right side and the CPS--but not impossible--so push, push, push.

One of the things I learned from my recovery is that relentless pushing, way past where I had ever pushed and in a much different way was is, and always will be necessary to achieve small incremental results--the drive that pushed me to get into the Haas Business school at Cal and then to graduate, gain admittance into law school and graduate then into my career and study for the bar exam until I was struck down 26 days before I was scheduled to sit for it by the stroke--was far less than was needed to learn the art of walking again. It is almost laughable that the drive to succeed in my prior life is far less than what I needed to resume my climbing Sanford Stadium's bleachers (RIP), and resume riding my bike again (falling every single ride for months) and ultimately riding up to 20 mile rides in the Bay Lands, then the drive I needed to create a new career multi family housing development and overcoming simple things--what I took for granted prior to the stroke.

Sean is very inspiring and it is really nice to see that kind of life results shown in a public forum; thank you for sharing your story with us Sean.


Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:19 pm


Please have George and Karl set up a night at the ranch, within the next we can howl at the moon around a campfire (maybe even build a little bit of fence).



Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Interestingly I want to share my story with this beautiful family.

About four months back on a Saturday evening I ended up at an estate sale on Lowell.

The family and friends were there. Somehow I brought a book called Teenage Manners by Tiffany's from my house.

Margaret reciprocated and told I could take anything on their estate sale.

I did. I have many kitchen items from this family.

One thing I observed is that Margaret is an accomplished lady; from a great heritage from a prominent family.

Sean I think, is blessed to have Margaret near him to take care of him and be with him through this difficult journey .

One day, a few months later, I ran into Pat Gelsinger CEO of VMware and former intei executive.

When I mentioned about Sean and Margaret he attested how wonderful they are and model couple that have handled this problem with dignity and courage.

Rarely, spouses that come by with this high level of strength.

Many break down, as it is very ,difficult for the family.

Margaret and her husband are the exception. Palo Alto should be proud of their great resilience.

I/we pray for this family.

Hang in there. You are an inspiration.


Posted by Lisa
a resident of Addison School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Dear Sean. Wishing you well on your trip. You are truly inspirational. We met many years ago on a flight to Seoul where we thought the landing gear had failed. It was awesome to share that experience and of course a big relief to land safely ( just instrument not working). That experience and meeting you will always be with me. Sending extra strength and good thoughts for your ride and your happiness. Also to your family. All the best Lisa

Posted by No health advice
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 15, 2015 at 2:20 pm

I didn't find anything in the article about how to avoid having a stroke.
So he's a very accomplished cyclist and a Type A personality. so what? I wouldn't want to have an outsized ego and don't admire those who do. The lavish praise is way overdone.
Bicycling is not suitable for many people. How about some useful information?

Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm

@No health advice (or is it actually Wondering? under a different guise?):
Something tells me you didn't actually *read* the article that you attack. If you had, you would have found this link in the article itself:

Web Link

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2015 at 4:54 pm

@Stop the Trolls (and editor) -- there are currently two versions of this thread. One entitled "Stroke survivor to embark on cross-country bike ride to raise awareness" which has above-noted weblink, and another entitled "The second-hardest thing" which just says "See sidebar" with no link. Comments here get attached to both threads.

Posted by Matt Cardoza
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Prayers for protection while you're on the roads. This is an amazing story, and it is very honorable of you to be doing this for such a great cause. One my friends that works at Intel in Folsom just told me about your ride. I am a cyclist myself and a stroke survivor as well. My stroke occurred in December of 2008 during a brain surgery. While the surgeon was working on removing a benign brain tumor from the brain stem area a blood vessel was accidentally severed. I was also a very active person before this and it was my second brain surgery. I awoke from the surgery, unable to move the entire left side of my body, in addition I had vision trouble, cognitive issues, speech problems and I was on a feeding tube for two weeks because I could not swallow. After waking and realizing where I was and what happened, after the original shock I was happy to be alive. My surgery was at Kaiser in Redwood City (down near your way). I was 6 classes short of getting my bachelors degree in Computer Science from Sacramento State (still trying to finish school while recovering from my first surgery 5 years earlier). My wife had to close my computer business (I was self employed). Just last year I Graduated in May and in June I completed my first Century ride since the stroke, "Americas Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe." I wish I heard about your ride sooner I would have ridden some training rides with you and come along the first several segments if not more. My wife and I are going to be in Austin for a trip April 23rd through 27th of April, we have round trip tickets but it would be great to stretch out that trip and ride with you for a few lengths... I have never shipped a bike so I know nothing about it. Looks like I have some research to do... If you happen to get this note while on the conquest my email is [email protected]

I wish you the best and hope for things as to go as smooth possible.
Just remember as you're riding that there are a lot of people behind you, every time your legs start to burn a little remember how much work it was doing all of the therapy, and look at how far you've come since then :)
Good luck my friend!

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2015 at 6:22 pm

While this thread is momentarily active again, I'll note that the riders appear to be safely south of L.A. The heartacrossamerica site lists their proposed route and schedule, and more informatively shows a map of their last GPS activity. Wonders of modern technology...

Posted by Matt Cardoza
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Thanks @musical, I spent nearly half the day looking at that site, trying to see if we could ship my bike for a reasonable rate, researching rates for changing the return flight home, checking out bike & car rentals... all options have been exhausted, my wife and I cannot afford the extra costs. She has stayed by my side from day one when I initially had my stroke nearly a year after we were married, so I gotta do my best to keep her happy. Lol :) Again best of luck on your journey Sean. If you do the ride next year maybe I could start with you in SF.

Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 13, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I am so sorry to hear about this accident.

It happens to many, but to have this happen to this beautiful family is just unbelievable.

My prayers are with the family, specially Margaret and the children and Sean for fast recovery.


Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2015 at 8:11 pm

@Sea, some info or link would have been considerate in your last comment.

Web Link

On Easter Sunday outside of San Diego Sean Maloney hit a bump on a descending section of roadway, broke a few bones, and got airlifted to a hospital. After making sure Sean was in good hands and recovering, David Fisch and Don Brennen are continuing the fundraising ride across the country.

I haven't seen any follow-up yet in local media here.

Posted by Route66aJourney
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm

If it's the same as ~10 years ago, that bit of highway is very rough with many ridged sections in the shoulder. Very jarring. It is the correct bike route, as used by RAAM and PacTour.

Broken bones will heal. Cycling is still great rehabilitation, especially for brain injuries. What good for the heart is good for the brain as well. Hope he is back on the bike soon.

Posted by rose gooch
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Congratulations, Sean!!!
No two people recover the same way, regardless of their drive and motivation. There is spontaneous recovery which many people take credit for themselves. Then there are people who work as hard as they can and remain in one place, like Alice in Wonderland. Not to diminish Sean in any way, but to give credit to all of the folks who have had strokes and still have deficits, we salute you. It is not you, dear friend, it is the universe.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Schedule has the ride finishing this Sunday, with a 14-mile stretch across the George Washington Bridge and down the Hudson's edge to Midtown Manhattan.

Posted by Thanks & ISO more info
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Ok. Had TIAs, had scan showing stenosis. I'm aware, now what? Because of my age (TIAs in 40s), no one is taking this seriously except MD friends. The awareness isn't enough. No one except me seems interested in knowing what has happened to my carotids since despite some recurrences of symptoms. (Got my blood pressure under control but it still spikes unusually high with vigorous exercise.)

Where do we go for a preventive approach medically?

Congratulations on this feat to Sean. Wow is all I can say.

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