Former Wallaby visits Toowoomba to support stroke research

WHEN the name Michael Lynagh is mentioned, many descriptions spring to mind - Wallaby great, goal-kicking machine, World Cup champion.

Stroke victim, however, shatters such imagery, suggesting an improbable outcome for a world-class athlete.

Yet, in April, 2012, that was the shocking reality confronting the then 48 year-old, his family and friends.

Speaking recently at a charity luncheon and book signing event in Toowoomba, Lynagh described the somewhat bizarre circumstances surrounding his stroke.

In the ensuing hilarity, Lynagh suddenly choked on a mouthful of beer that had gone down the wrong way.

The violent fit of coughing that resulted ruptured Lynagh's right vertebral artery, immediately impacting his sight and triggering a blinding headache.

Suspecting all was not well, an ambulance was called and Lynagh was rapidly despatched to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

The possibility of a stroke, however, was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. Writing in his newly-released book, Blindsided, Michael states,

"I should say that I knew very little about stroke.

"It wasn't something I'd ever thought about and it had certainly never crossed my mind that I could have one.

"As far as I was concerned, stroke was something that affected older people or those with unhealthy lifestyles.

"I fell into neither of those categories… it was going to take a while to come to terms with the fact that I'd just had a major stroke at the age of forty-eight."

Ongoing swelling at the base of Michael's brain gave family members some harrowing times in the days immediately following his stroke.

However, for reasons even doctors cannot fully explain, their patient went on to make a near miraculous recovery, with his mobility and co-ordination almost fully intact.

Although still impacted by the loss of peripheral vision in his left eye, Lynagh had been truly, truly lucky.

According to neurologist, Dr Rob Henderson, "Michael didn't dodge a bullet, he dodged a cannon ball."

Accutely aware of his relative good fortune, Michael now devotes considerable effort to supporting others in the aftermath of stroke.

His Toowoomba visit, for example, helped to focus attention on the newly launched Stroke Recovery Trial Fund which aims to finance stroke-related clinical trials at Griffith University's School of Medicine.

"I just hope that if I talk to the people I meet about stroke and provide a little support, then because I have a bit of a profile, maybe people who didn't know much about stroke might learn something."

To learn more about The Stroke Recovery Trial Fund visit

Blindsided - A rugby great confronts his greatest challenge is published by Harper Collins.

Former Australian rugby captain Michael Lynagh with his book Blindsided.
Former Australian rugby captain Michael Lynagh with his book Blindsided.

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