A Stroke at 27, Heart Attack at 29: Almost Dying Saved Author Ben McKelvey

Aug 3, 2023 | News

By: Laura Bennett

Author, journalist and editor Ben McKelvey was 27 when he had stroke.

He was fit, carefree and enjoying his work as a magazine journalist, delighting in the “Sydney Party” that the perks of the job allowed.

Two years later he had a heart attack and was unable to escape the reassessment his health shocks demanded of how he approached life and the nagging to understand what was important.

“I was very bad at that,” Ben said in our interview.

“I was very bad at going backwards and accepting blame and recognising my own faults and recognising my limitations – especially after the stroke.”

To grow and change, Ben would have to consider the traumas that shaped him and, if he was afforded another chance at life, ask what he really wanted out of it.

That journey took Ben outside of the hospital room and into the extremes of a journalistic deployment with the ADF in the Middle East – and inspired a fascination with the psychology of guests he profiled across of range of specialties.

In his memoir A Scar is Also Skin, Ben captures what he calls his “remaking” and invites readers to live with the presence of mind that comes from knowing things could change in an instant.

“We make an assumption when we’re young that there’s going to be a certain predictability to life,” Ben said.

“That you’re going to have retirement, you’re going to have old age, you’re going to have middle age, you’re going to have kids.

“But after I had the stroke I realised nothing was guaranteed – not just for me, but for anyone – which is something that can be terrifying and it is something that can be liberating, but it is something that you need to reconcile with.”

Ben McKelvey’s memoir A Scar is Also Skin is out now.