Stroke gives Kelly a fresh perspective on life

ANTHONY Kelly credits three things for being alive today — modern medicine, a supportive family and bowls.

Without the three, the Warrnambool sportsman wonders what would have happened after he suffered a life-threatening stroke almost a decade ago.

Kelly remembers the day — November 29, 2003 — like it was yesterday.

He recalls lying in bed at his Essendon home “and all of a sudden bang”.

There was no pain. But he couldn’t walk. He couldn’t talk. And he couldn’t see. 

The stroke was a consequence of a heart bypass Kelly, 52, had when he was 36, which left two holes in the back of his heart.

He is happy to recall the life-changing moment, hoping his words will help others going through the same ordeal.

“If someone reads something in the paper like that when they have a stroke and give up on life they can look at it and say ‘that’s what happened to him, I can come back from it’,” he said.

“I’ve met people like that.”

Kelly was a handy sportsmen before the stroke.

He kicked 24.15 as a teenage forward for Dennington against Bushfield one day in 1985 — a Warrnambool and District league record.

And he played high-level bowls for Altona and Buckley Park after shifting to Melbourne to pursue a career as a greenkeeper.

But all that counted for little when he was lying in a Royal Melbourne Hospital bed questioning how unfair life could be.

Kelly had part of his skull cut out to ease pressure on his brain and 87 staples to put it back in during a four-month stint in hospital.

He heard doctors talking about his survival prospects “out of my good ear” but he was determined to live — for himself, his wife Leanne and four children.

“When I was in the Royal Melbourne I thought I was gone,” he said.

“I could’ve given up then, I could’ve rolled off the side of the bed.

“But it’s great what doctors can do, they were amazing. The doctors were amazing, the nurses were amazing. They said being so young helped.”

Four months of rehabilitation followed. Kelly had to relearn how to talk, walk and eat. “It’s just like being a baby”.

Today, he has all his feeling back and is grateful for everything life has given him — including his sense of humour.

He is a grandfather to two-year-old Makenzie and plays bowls with Dennington, winning the club championship a fortnight ago.

The support of his family was crucial, a statement he makes often while telling his story.

“You can roll over and give up. But my children and wife stuck by me, they’ve been fantastic,” he said.

“Some of your friends disappear because they don’t know what to say.”

Bowls, too, has played a major role in his recovery. He is indebted to Dennington skipper Jack Murnane for dragging him to the club four years ago.

“It’s been fantastic down at the bowling club. The people you meet who weren’t friends are friends now. It’s great in that sense,” he said. “You’ve got to try and come good for yourself first.”

Kelly will play as a second to Ian Wood as Dennington Red chases Western District Bowls Division Saturday pennant success against Terang Green today.

Dennington is seventh but starts the clash just 15 points behind third-ranked Green. In other top-grade round 12 matches, Warrnambool Blue can claim intra-club bragging rights against Warrnambool White at Timor Street.

City Memorial Gold will start underdog to Warrnambool Gold at Cramer Street.

Timboon Gold can keep in touch with the top four with victory against Mortlake Blue at Timboon.

And Port Fairy Red will look to exploit home-green advantage when it hosts City Memorial Red.

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