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Bowling after injury: Adam’s heroic story

Life changed unrecognisably for police officer Adam Melloy when he was involved in a car accident in April 2021 while working (writes Sian Honnor).

The father-of two was a passenger in a car which wrapped round a tree at 80mph, causing him to break his hip, back and pelvis

A bowler since the age of 11, Adam was grateful that he could still play the game, albeit in a far more challenging way, from a wheelchair.

“I wanted to have something to look forward to and be competitive for and bowls is something that I can carry on with and not have to give up,” he explained.

 Adam’s long period of recovery is still underway as he undertakes intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions.

“They said it should be possible for me to walk again, but it has taken a lot of time, patience and energy to get here, and I have had to learn to stand, walk and play bowls again,” Adam said.

“I have only just started using crutches more in the last few weeks; I am mainly in a wheelchair still which takes a lot of adjustment.

“I had to have another operation this year because when they rebuilt my hip there was no socket for it to go in and some of the metal work was sticking into my nerve and me so that had to come out in February, so I am still recovering from that.”

Adam recalled the moment he came to after the accident: “I remember not being able to move, not being able to breathe properly and trying to calm myself down.

“Eventually I looked and realised something wasn’t quite right because my legs were next to each other, but they were the wrong way round.

“Luckily, I am quite calm, I was more interested in the football score at the time.

“My colleague was distraught, but he only broke his finger. He managed to turn just enough but it crushed me.”

The 36-year-old said the pain hit when they started to cut him from the car, and it was unlike anything he’d “ever experienced before”.

“I had no idea how bad it was. Apparently, my leg was stuck; the more they moved me, the more I screamed.

“I got a nice helicopter ride, every time she asked me if I was alright, I put my thumb up but she couldn’t hear me so she kept giving me more pain relief. I wasn’t with it at all.

“My wife Natalie was there, and I asked her to look under the blanket and tell me how bad my leg was – she now says my leg was going down and left and was two foot shorter than my other leg.”

Adam spent a lot of time on his own after the accident and says he coped by trying not to think about what had happened.

“I just tried to be positive. At the beginning, I thought I would be able to get back to how I was and think positively and then it dawned on me that wasn’t going to happen which was hard to take.”

He maintains that bowls brings him pleasure and tries to play at least twice a week at his clubs, Sandwich BC and Folkestone IBC.

“Bowls used to be the place where I would go when I was stressed,” Adam said.

“I would be able to decompress, walk up and down and just bowl and relax. I loved having time to myself to take things down a level.

“Now when I go there, I still see it as having peace and it’s great that I can still do it, sometimes better than the other members so that makes me happy.”

But it has not been an easy transition.

Adam said: “Playing bowls from a wheelchair is harder in every way; it has taken me a long time to adjust, and I feel like I am still learning.

“Being in a chair you are a lot lower, so it is a lot harder to judge how short a bowl is from the jack. 

“I also had to change my bowls as playing from the wheelchair, they bent a yard and a half wider. 

“I banged my head in the accident too, so my hand-eye coordination is not the best and the bowls were going all over the place. I now play with tighter bowls so I don’t look so bad.

“Outdoors is much harder. I really have to throw it and make sure I give it a bit more than I thought I would have to and the seat positions from a chair is very difficult on grass, it won’t move around as easily as it does on the indoor carpet.

“I get left out of a few selection things now since being in a wheelchair but it was nice beating the ones who select the Denny at the end of last season so hopefully that might change things going forward.”

Adam started at the age of 12 at Penge BC.

“I loved being outside and meeting new people,” he said.

“It was my grandparents that took me down and they were actually embarrassed to do so because they didn’t want to seem old, but I enjoyed it straight away.

“Life got busy when I was around 18 and I didn’t have the time or money to play the game anymore so I stopped for six years.

“I missed it a lot. I had just got picked for Surrey Under 25s when I gave up and had also played for Surrey main team a couple of times.

“I started again at 24 and wished I had never given up.”

Adam says the best thing about bowls is that you can play with anyone – your spouse, kids, grandkids, parents, grandparents. 

He said: “I love playing with my son Charlie. He has his own set of bowls though he says he doesn’t like playing with the juniors sometimes because they mess about too much!

“I would say to anyone to come down and try bowls. Chances are you will get in and meet new people and even if you don’t like the game the social side will reel you in and you will love it.”

Adam recently had a trial for the elite Disability Bowls England squad.

“DBE is a great organisation,” he said.

“When I first went along, I had never really met anyone else with anything similar to me. You always tend to think that you are the only one with any problems so it was a massive eye-opener.

“There were so many people there. Someone told me I couldn’t take crutches on the green before I went along but I was given the proper rules so I learnt a lot and I also picked up lots of different ways of doing things to make my life a little bit easier at bowls.

“They are very keen for me to get classified, but I think I will find it hard because of some of the intricacies of the rules and I think it will take a while because I won’t be able to get classified while having treatment.

“My aim is to keep playing competitively and prove that just because I am in a wheelchair, I can still play to a good standard.”