Fran Kirby: England and Chelsea player reveals long road 'out of hibernation'

England and Chelsea forward tells The Football Show: "I’m able to train, I’m able to smile, have a conversation with people. I’m in a better place"

Chelsea Women Fran Kirby pictured during the FA Women's Super League match between Chelsea and Reading at Kingsmeadow on January 5 2020 4:57
Chelsea and England forward Fran Kirby admits her recovery from a rare heart condition has been long and challenging

England and Chelsea forward Fran Kirby says she is in a "better place" and desperate to train after a debilitating illness that left her feeling "at my most vulnerable".

Kirby fell ill with pericarditis after Chelsea played Manchester United on November 17 and has not played since being diagnosed with the condition - an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac around the heart.

Earlier this month, the 26-year-old revealed she had come close to retiring in a long recovery process, which left her sofa-bound for two months.

"Physically I wasn't able to do anything," she told The Football Show on Sky Sports News. "I wasn't allowed to do any walking, anything that would stress my heart or stress me. I was so tired, I couldn't move really. I was fed up.

"I came back a couple of times to try and train but just had another setback, and then another setback. But each time I was able to train for longer without having symptoms. Then I would experience symptoms for a week or two."

The stop-starting was "mentally tough" for Kirby, who has now gone six weeks without any symptoms.

The bronze medal winner with England's 2015 World Cup team says she feels like she is "coming out of hibernation" after returning to training.

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I would start a conversation, then switch off and not finish. I was exhausted I didn't even want to look at my phone.
Fran Kirby

"People have seen me at my most vulnerable," she added. "I couldn't really have many conversations with people because I just felt so tired. I would start a conversation, then switch off and not finish.

"I had people around me that could see I was that poorly and still trying to help me, even though sometimes I may have come across rude - I was just in a fog in my head, to be honest.

"People have been messaging me every day. Little things like that mean so much even if I was taking two or three days to answer back because I just wasn't on my phone, I was exhausted I didn't even want to look at my phone. Now I can have those conversations and thank those people."

Kirby reveals her biggest inspiration and discusses her career to date in a fans Q&A on The Football Show

'No football has been good for me'

The long spells of isolation have left Kirby more comfortable with current lockdown measures than most, after she "couldn't go out" during her illness.

The Women's Super League, along with the men's Premier League and the EFL, were initially suspended in March before being extended indefinitely on April 3, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"With no football it's probably good for me because, in a selfish way, I wouldn't be quite ready to play yet," said Kirby.

"Now I'm kind of at the same level as everyone else."

Fran Kirby of England Women during the World Cup Women match between England v USA at the Stade de Lyon on July 2, 2019 in Lyon France 0:40
Kirby feels the recent growth of the women's game has brought an added pressure that the players thrive on

The WSL season is likely to come to an end following talks between the league's organisers and the FA Board.

Discussions with clubs about how to end the season will also need to take place, with a system needed to be agreed to finalise the league table.

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Kirby is hoping for more moments like these when she finally returns to action

Manchester City currently sit top of the league on 40 points from 16 games, while Chelsea are a point behind having played one fewer game - meaning if points-per-game is adopted Chelsea will go above City and win the title.

"It's been a really positive season for us," said Kirby. "We'll just have to see what happens and what decisions are made but it's an exciting time to be part of Chelsea."

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