In an emotional tribute, Lord Attenborough’s son expressed his gratitude for having a “hero” for a father. Dying at the age of 90, Michael described him as “quite simply my hero; my supporter, my counsellor, my friend”. Following a stroke in 2008, Richard injured himself by falling down the stairs.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST, the NHS says:

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
  • Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

Michael told the Daily Mirror: “He hit his head very badly and I have no idea how he survived.

“When he emerged after 18 months in hospital, he was obviously not the same man.”

Richard lost his ability to read, write, and speak properly, with Michael revealing that his dad could only “get the odd word out”.

“He could say my name and that was it,” said Michael. “When he first came out of hospital he seemed hugely frustrated.”

But in the 18 months leading up to his death on August 24, 2014, Lord Attenborough “was much more resigned”.

A friend of Richard, the film director Anthony Haas, told the Daily Mail: “Mentally he was all there, but it became difficult for him to communicate properly and that was causing him pain.”

When Richard had fallen and hit his head, he was put into a coma for several days.

The Mayo Clinic points out that “some people who recover from a coma end up with major or minor disabilities”.

Experts at Headway, the brain injury association, say the length of a coma is “one of the most accurate predictors of the severity of long-term symptoms”.

“The longer the coma, the greater the likelihood of residual symptoms, particularly physical disabilities,” the experts added.

Residual symptoms from a moderate brain injury can include: tiredness, headaches, and dizziness.

Other symptoms could include difficulties with thinking, attention, memory planning, organising, concentration, word-finding problems and irritability.

A severe brain injury, defined by being in an unconscious state for six hours or more, could lead to:

  • Mobility problems
  • Spasticity
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Ataxia
  • Sensory impairment
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulties with speech
  • Epilepsy.

Mobility issues could include needing the use of a wheelchair, and there could be paralysis on one side of the body.

“Ataxia is irregular, uncontrolled movement or tremor affecting the coordination of movements,” the organisation explains.

“The person’s hands may be shaky or clumsy, and handwriting may be difficult or impossible.”

Unfortunately, it would seem that Richard suffered from ataxia and difficulties with speech due to his brain injury.

Richard Attenborough starred in Miracle On 34th Street, which is showcasing on Sunday, December 11 on Channel 4 at 4:25pm.