After a severe heart attack and stroke, bowls enthusiast Connie Jenkins was devastated to think she would never play the sport she loved again. We’ve helped her get back out on the bowling green.
86 year-old Connie from Merthyr Tydfil has played indoor bowls for over 40 years. Having always been incredibly active, Connie was knocked for six when she had a stroke. She spent four months in hospital and many more recovering.
A life-changing event
Connie explained: “I was never in the house before the stroke happened. I used to be out playing bowls or going dancing. I was still driving so was always doing something.”
After the stroke, Connie had to stop driving and wasn’t able to get out as much as she would have liked.
But with funding from Land Rover UK, we’ve been able to set up a service designed to help people just like her.
The Red Cross community support service in Merthyr Tydfil helps isolated older people who have difficulty coping with an injury, illness, disability or personal crisis.
Janet Morgan, a volunteer with the service, began making weekly visits to Connie to help her regain her independence.
A positive outlook
On the very first visit, Janet was surprised to be asked by Connie if they could walk to the local bowls club to watch her friends playing.
“Connie has an extremely positive outlook and is determined not to be dependent on anyone.” Janet said. “She misses playing bowls but enjoys going to watch a game and then have tea with her friends to socialise afterwards.”
The road to recovery
Janet arranged for Connie to begin a programme of exercises that would improve her strength and mobility.
Janet also made contact with Dan Bufton, development officer for Disability Sports Wales in Merthyr, to see if there was anything he could suggest for Connie.
Dan helped find a bowling ramp to allow Connie to play bowls once again. He also worked with the local bowls club to help Connie get back in to the sport.
He explained: “Disability Sport Wales believe that sport has the power to transform lives and we know how important it is for Connie to be active.”
An emotional return
Dan and Janet went with Connie to the Merthyr Tydfil Indoor Bowls Club to try out some of the different ramps available.
Stepping back onto the Green was an emotional moment for Connie. She exclaimed, “I never thought I would be back here.”
“It’s wonderful,” she said, “Janet has been such a good friend to me. She’s done so much to help.
“Without her I would just be sat in my chair at home. She has taken me out, sorted out my bus pass, and she’s helping me get fit again so I can get outside and do the things I enjoy.
“I just want to be self-sufficient. That’s my aim.”
A future filled with possibilities
Janet has helped Connie to attend a taster Boccia session. This sport is similar to bowls and is played by many people with physical disabilities.
Janet is also building Connie’s confidence to use local buses so she can make her own way to the bowls club and leisure centre. Once her strength improves, Connie is also determined to go dancing once more.
Janet said: “Connie embodies exactly what the Red Cross is trying to do – whatever we can to help older people maintain their independence through short term support.
“Connie knows her limitations but she doesn’t want them to stop her from doing the things she loves. Sometimes we all need a bit of help to get back on the right track – especially after a life-changing event – and that’s what Red Cross volunteers can do. We work with people to help them regain confidence and overcome isolation.”