Garry Jack

Garry Jack Heart attack

Interview with Garry Jack, April 2021
Interview & Article By: Manav Kaila, The Poke Initiative, University of Sydney

Garry Jack Footy Legend Unbelievably Survived Cardiac Arrest

Rugby League Legend, Garry Jack, has shared his story about his encounter with sudden cardiac arrest, which left him clinically dead for nearly 10 minutes. Garry has agreed to become a patron for the Michael Hughes Foundation, working alongside their team, to encourage everyone to get CPR trained and provide confidence to give it a go.

The first grade professional represented the Balmain Tigers, NSW (Blues) and Australia (Kangaroos), and had an illustrious career spanning the 80’s and 90’s. Garry now cheekily remarks, “If it’s in ya, it’s in ya… I’ve always been competitive, I’ve always tried to be the best at whatever I did.” Now, after his retirement from a successful football career, 59 year-old Garry has taken a liking to Brazilian ju-jitsu, for which he trains three times a week to stay fit, among other things.

Garry avidly watches his diet and has taken care to visit a cardiologist regularly for the last three years. Just weeks before his cardiac arrest, he’d been out completing his regular fitness routine of jogging 3km at the local park and coming home to swim some laps in his pool. Having been told that his heart was doing fantastically after successive stress tests, the last thing Garry was expecting was a cardiac arrest. Garry suspected nothing.

“It was just like any other day. It was a Friday; it was 22 January 2021.”

On that fateful day, Garry had arrived at Castle Hill for ju-jitsu, and had completed a warm-up run of five laps.

“(After the warm-up), our trainer said ‘Okay! Grab a partner now and start to do some exercises together’, and I went to grab my partner, or I thought I did… and that’s all I remember.”

‘Even as I was doing the laps, I had no pain in my chest, I had no pain in my arm, I never had any symptoms at all.”

There was no way of knowing. Garry’s survival depended on him being at the right place at the right time, around the right people. Timing was everything for Garry.

According to bystanders, Garry had collapsed and his lips had started to turn blue. “It was a hot day- a very hot day! It was probably forty degrees,” Garry recalls. His mate, Dave, thinking that he may have collapsed due to the heat, had proceeded to hold his head to keep his airways open. Another mate, Simon, had read the signs. He made the quick decision to commence CPR and locate the defibrillator. It was this decision that would save Garry’s life.

The Michael Hughes Foundation’s own Kevin McSweeney was part of the paramedic team onsite that day, taking over after 10 minutes of CPR. Garry was rushed to hospital and has subsequently had two stents placed in his coronary arteries as well as an ICD ready if such an event were to recur.

He recalls having an out-of-body experience, saying, “I remember being in this dark room looking down at myself. I just remember standing up and falling over, and I just kept falling over and kept falling over. I said to myself ‘I’ve just got to get out of here, I can’t stay here! I’ve got to go to my son’s wedding!’.”

Rejoicing at his son’s wedding a week later, Garry regards himself as one of the lucky few. The survival rate out of hospital of those who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest is a sobering 9%. With this in mind, Garry is hoping to be a force for change.

He has become an advocate for CPR, encouraging the importance of learning and practising to make the community safer. Becoming a patron of the Michael Hughes Foundation, Garry supports the work they are doing around increasing awareness for sudden cardiac arrest and their campaign around getting people trained for such emergencies.

He reckons that everyone who can, should, citing his experience as an instance where someone’s CPR competence made all the difference when it mattered. He hopes that this will improve the staggering figure which is the mortality rate of cardiac arrest.

Watch the full interview with Kevin McSweeney, Chair, Michael Hughes Foundation

The Whittley Club of NSW Inc obtained a defibrillator through NSW Office of Sport grant program.  The assistance I received from Julie and the organisation was fantastic!  MHF helped guide me through the necessary paperwork and provided our members with thorough training in the use of the equipment.

- Narelle Baglin, Treasurer, Whittley Club NSW Inc.

Our CPR refresher course was great, and Kevin is just awesome! I don’t think we would want anyone else but Kevin from now on, we feel spoilt!

- Baber Rasheed, Community First Step, Fairfield

I just completed my HLTAID003 Provide First Aid course. It was the best first aid training I have ever done. Charnan is a fantastic trainer with such a wealth of experience.

- Karen Hope, General Manager People, Culture and Youth Programs, PCYC NSW

Since 2016, Stellar Learning has used Michael Hughes Foundation for all our first aid training. Our trainer Kevin is amazing… Not only does he do First Aid courses, he is a paramedic and very hands on. Kevin explains things in an easy manner and helps everyone throughout the course. I would recommend him and the Foundation to any business wanting to host a first aid course.

- Liv Taylor, Stellar Learning Group

Thank you MHF! Your first aid and CPR training were fantastic. We love your presenters because they always make the training so interesting for our staff by sharing real life knowledge and experience. Keep up the great work.

- Michelle Hanley, Risk Manager & State Member Protection Officer, Football NSW

The impact on each parent that has attended this course is immeasurable. The participants now have the skills to be able to stay calm and administer First Aid if faced with an emergency. This training has also enabled the participants to update skills for work or to help secure employment.

- Catherine Gregory, Hilltop Road Public School
© 2021 Michael Hughes Foundation.

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