Cessnock cardiac arrest survivor returns to do what he loves, pigeon racing | The advertiser – Cessnock
September 4 marks a year since Stephen Bailey of Cessnock suffered cardiac arrest while driving his car.
Stephen beat the odds to overcome the ordeal, which has a survival rate of less than five percent.
A member of the Cessnock Pigeon Club, Stephen was on his way to train his birds in Pokolbin for a major competition when the heart attack occurred.
Shortly after leaving his home, he passed out while driving and crashed into a parked car.
Luckily for Stephen, a number of local residents quickly rushed to his aid, performing CPR on him until paramedics arrived.
Stephen would then spend four days in intensive care and two weeks in total in the hospital.
He also had to undergo surgery to implant a defibrillator, in an attempt to help his heart return to normal and efficient rhythm.
But showing where his heart really lies, Stephen said his first thought when he woke up in hospital was what happened to his pigeons, which were in the backseat of his car at the time of the crash. .
Fortunately, like Stephen, the birds were not injured in the crash and after the police freed them from their cages, they returned home.
After a long recovery, Stephen said he was back in shape and happy to do what he loves most: carrier pigeons.
Now 50, Stephen has been involved in the sport since he was a child, after his late father Rex Bailey introduced him to the sport.
At the time, he said pigeon racing was a spectacle sport that would draw crowds similar to today’s local rugby league derbies.
Stephen currently has over 70 birds that he runs and said a lot of people don’t realize how remarkable they are.
“It’s like any other sport and there is a lot more going on than people think,” he said.
“We have speed pigeons, middle distance pigeons and marathon pigeons.
“It’s a bit like horse racing.”
On the morning of a race, the pigeons are collected from racing clubs throughout the Hunter and then transported to a release point.
Stephen said races can involve more than 1,000 birds at the same time and it depends on their natural instincts for them to return home.
“A pigeon can travel over 800 meters per minute – they are real athletes,” he said.
“They won’t all come back because there are predators that can be daunting.”
Never one to pass up a race, even when Stephen was in the hospital recovering, he still managed to organize himself for his birds to run.
“My attack happened just at the critical moment of the season,” he said.
“I was leading the annual score up to this point.
“Fortunately, I had friends who looked after the birds for me.”
On the anniversary of his attack, Stephen would like to thank the “guardian angels” Philippa Wellard, Leigh Stokes and Allana Wilson who all came to his rescue that day.
“Without them I wouldn’t be here and I think about it every day,” he said.