By Lorna Gordon
Many of you will know Garry Jack from his time with Balmain Tigers in the eighties, his appearances for NSW in State of Origin and his international rugby career.
For the past few years Garry has worked for TAB in the trade engagement team. He also does a regular weekly podcast called The Fend with journalist Adam Hawes, where they talk about all things NRL. Because of his lifelong love of sport, Garry has always been a fit man and even after he left professional rugby, he kept his fitness levels up. However, on 22 January this year, this Rugby League legend ended up fighting for his life.
Garry had been warming up for the regular jujitsu class he has done three times a week for the past 20 years, when he lost consciousness and literally, hit the mat. After realising Garry hadn’t just passed out from the heat, but was actually unresponsive with no pulse, his trainer began to administer CPR.
This quick response by Simon Farnsworth and the help of his club mates, who ensured the paramedics were called and got to Garry quickly, avoided possible brain damage or worse, death. When Garry was in Westmead, he met my husband, James, who was there for exactly the same issue. In my husband’s case, I was the first responder who did CPR until the paramedics arrived to take over from me, so I know exactly how vital a skill CPR is in a medical emergency.
Thankfully, both Garry and my husband have made remarkable recoveries, and when I heard that he was keen to raise awareness of the need for people to undertake CPR training, I asked if he would do an interview with me, and he was delighted to do so. The first thing I asked Garry was how it felt to be in hospital after having his cardiac arrest.
“I didn’t know what had happened, I had no idea, I woke up and asked why I was there. When I first woke up my wife was there, I regained consciousness that night, but I don’t recollect that night or the next morning,” he told me.
“It wasn’t until about 6 o’clock the next night that I really became aware of where I was and what had happened.” After this lifechanging event, Garry is now determined to raise awareness of CPR and the need for all Australians to do training on this life-saving technique. We all know that CPR can be a lifesaver, Garry himself had experience of CPR as a youngster in Wollongong, but it’s been a while since he updated his training on it.
“I was familiar with CPR as a young fella. When I was in the surf club at Wollongong, I did my first aid back in the 80s, which was 40 years ago haven’t done it since. I have plans to re-do it and learn more about it.” He went on to tell me why it’s so important for more Aussies to learn this lifesaving skill.
“Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are two different things. With a heart attack there is a blockage in your arteries, and you might have time to get to the hospital, but with a cardiac arrest your heart suddenly stops beating correctly,” he explained.
“Receiving CPR from a bystander is the only thing which can help as it keeps your heart pumping blood until the ambos arrive. You never know when or if it might happen, it could be when you are out at the shops or at the footie and you need someone to step in and do this for you.“If you don’t get CPR quickly then your chances of survival are pretty low.” He is right and the statistics are shocking. Up to 30,000 people have cardiac arrests in Australia each year, sadly less than 10 per cent of those people survive, and the main reason they do is because someone physically close to them did CPR.
Let that statistic sink in, out of 30,000 people, over 27,000 of them will pass away each year. That number is too high.
Garry and James are lucky that people with them knew what to do, but would you want to count on luck to keep your loved one safe and alive? I’m pretty confident that your answer would be no, and that is exactly the reason we need to raise the awareness of CPR and why this vital skill is something all adults should know and be confident to carry out.
If you wish to undertake CPR training, there are lots of places who offer it, with St Johns Ambulance being one of the biggest providers. Garry had a great suggestion on how to make learning this skill a bit more fun.
“Talk to your neighbours or friends and encourage them to join in. That way you can arrange for a training course to happen at someone’s home, and you can get a lot of people trained at once,”
“If it’s at your neighbours you could all chip in and buy a basic defibrillator which is kept at one house, then if CPR is required you know where it is, and someone can do CPR until you get it from the neighbour.”
Garry is also keen for younger people to get trained on CPR and was pleased to know that St Johns Ambulance offer free basic first aid courses for primary school children. He would also like to see CPR being included in the curriculum for high school kids. He told me that in places like Norway it’s already a part of the curriculum, and because of this their survival rate is closer to 25 per cent, more than 15 per cent higher than ours.
If you want to do a CPR course, St Johns Ambulance (www. stjohn.org.au) offer one, as does Fire and Safety Australia (www.fireandsafetyaustralia.com.au) as well as many others.
You could ask your workplace to sponsor group training for staff or organise a group of your own to do this.
Please don’t leave saving a life up to luck. Do something proactive and get the training yourself, you never know when you might need to help a loved one or keep someone else’s loved one alive until the medical guys can take over.