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Gills chairman Paul Scally speaks for the first time after life-saving surgery

Paul Scally says he’s getting bored of resting.

The Gillingham chairman is a month into his recuperation from heart surgery that saved his life.

But keeping under doctor’s orders is proving a tough test for the 61-year-old.

Gills chairman Paul Scally
Gills chairman Paul Scally

Mr Scally said: “All of the surgeons and doctors keep phoning and saying ‘you have to rest’ – and I am resting, but it’s boring.

“I have been resting for three weeks now. I don’t know how much more I can rest.

“My heart is working really well now and I’ve got so much energy.

“I can’t wait to get back to work and in the gym because once I strengthen up I am going to be flying. I haven’t been flying for a long time.”

Last month Mr Scally had open heart surgery after a specialist discovered he had five blockages in his arteries.

That diagnosis followed 18 months of suffering, after Mr Scally was initially told he may have had a minor stroke, having fallen down his stairs at his home, leaving him semi-
conscious and in hospital.

Mr Scally said: “They said I had either damaged my brain by the stroke or when I hit my head following the fall.

Former manager Justin Edinburgh with Gills chairman Paul Scally in August Picture: Steve Crispe
Former manager Justin Edinburgh with Gills chairman Paul Scally in August Picture: Steve Crispe

“They told me that it would be a year to recover, to get everything back to normal.

“In my mind, I always believed that I was recovering from that. I was getting frustrated of late because I didn’t seem to be getting any better.

“I went past the 12-month stage and I called the consultant – I felt so ill and didn’t feel any better. I remember Wimbledon away this season I thought I was going to keel over.

“I was so ill all the time, I could hardly walk.”

Ironically, it was during preparations for his latest trip to Sri Lanka, with Take Heart Mercy Mission, that a proper diagnosis was finally made.

Over the past decade, the charity has made annual trips to Sri Lanka and helped to save the lives of hundreds of young children.

Mr Scally’s own child, Elliott, died in 2003 after suffering severe heart complications from birth.

'If you’re going to choose a friend, choose a friend who’s a heart surgeon' - Gills chairman Paul Scally

That led to the Gills chairman and his wife Sara getting involved in the Sri Lanka missions and meeting paediatric heart specialist Conal Austin, the man Mr Scally now thanks for saving his life.

He said: “If you’re going to choose a friend, choose a friend who’s a heart surgeon, because there is absolutely no doubt that he saved my life.

“I was in a critical state and I didn’t know it. When he opened up my heart, it transpired that I was in an even more critical state than he realised.”

Mr Austin had seen scans of Mr Scally’s heart prior to the trip to Sri Lanka in October and, just days after their return to
England, the Gills chairman was being operated on.

He said: “If Conal hadn’t have pushed me into it, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It wouldn’t have been one of these heart attacks, it would have been a straight-over job, he told me.

“Lights out for good.

“One of the blockages was so bad that he couldn’t get his probe into it. It wasn’t a moment too soon.

“I was unconscious for 28 hours and I came around on Sunday evening to the news that I was alive.

“The first thing he told me was how bad my heart actually was and then that we had lost to Fleetwood 2-1 the day before.

Conal Austin
Conal Austin

“I immediately turned my painkiller up and went back to sleep!”

Mr Scally has been to the odd game since, but he is still recovering.

“I appreciate still being here and I was very, very lucky,” said the Gills chairman.

“I have had many get-well messages from fans and I would like to thank them all for their support.

“I know I had a massive, lucky escape.

“I am happy to be alive and, despite all the pain, I feel the best I have felt for two or three years.”


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