Jess opens his heart on stroke impact

FORMER Scotland footballer Eoin Jess has spoken for the first time about the potentially fatal medical condition that led to his stroke.

In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, Jess reveals he had a hole in his heart which did not affect his playing career but could have led to paralysis or taken his life with little or no warning.

Just over a year ago the former Aberdeen striker suffered the terrifying experience that left him unable to co-ordinate his movements. His mouth drooped and his speech became slurred as he suffered a stroke.

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But as Jess, 39, awaits an operation this month to repair the hole in his heart, he reveals how the chance discovery made him confront his own mortality. "It put things into perspective, made me realise that you're not on this planet for long. You have to live as best you can," he said.

But he is grateful the condition was not detected earlier as it would probably have ended his career – a dreadful prospect for the player who had 18 caps for Scotland and three trophies for Aberdeen.

Another Scottish international, Asa Hartford, was diagnosed with a hole in his heart in 1971, which led to Leeds United pulling out of a transfer deal with West Bromwich Albion.

Jess says the messages of support from fans gave him encouragement at a dark time. "It gave me strength to know that people out there care, that you have touched them somehow with your football," he said.

Now beginning a career as an assistant manager with Nottingham Forest's youth academy, Jess also regards himself lucky that the hole in his heart can be "fixed", allowing him to live his life without worrying about it happening again.