Guy Leech in Noosa this week reflecting on how early access to defibrilators can save lives.
Guy Leech in Noosa this week reflecting on how early access to defibrilators can save lives. PETER GARDINER

Guy’s pumped up to help revive lives after death of mate

FORMER ironman surf champion Guy Leech knows why one of his best mates slipped away hours after he battled to bring his heart back to life on a Sydney beach.

The eventual death of 63-year-old Charles "Chucky" Stewart was all a matter of bad timing - in that a relatively simple-to-operate machine called an automated external defibrillator arrived precious minutes too late.

Guy, the blond heart-throb lifesaver, who burst on to the national sporting scene in the 1980s, was in Noosa catching up with his family this week. He has made better access to these

heart starting machines his new life mission. Chucky worked as a reporter for Channel 9 and became great friends with Guy after doing a Wide World of Sports piece on the ironman's tilt at being a competitive triathlete.

When Guy, who at one stage of his career trained out of Noosa, started up a fitness paddle group mostly around Sydney Harbour 13 years ago to "motivate myself to get out of bed", Chucky was one of the original members.

"He's like an older brother to me," Guy said.

He said that on their first session back on the water for the year after the Christmas break, Chucky sent him a message.

Guy said he told others to "tell Leechy I'm feeling a little bit off and I'll go in early and see you at the cafe".

Chucky paddled ashore at Manly harbour, made it up to near his car then collapsed on the grass beside his ski shortly before 7.30am.

"He had a heart attack," Guy said.

A Manly lifesaver on his way to work spotted Chucky and started trying to resuscitate him.

Guy believes about five minutes had elapsed by then as he came running up the beach to help.

"I knew something was wrong, but I didn't realise it was Charles, I just thought it was someone from the general public.

"I took over doing resus for another five minutes before the ambulance arrived."

"With the third attempt of the defib, they got a faint heartbeat back and they bolted to Royal North Shore

Hospital."

Guy said the end result was that lack of oxygen meant catastrophic damage to the brain.

"For me the journey (after that) was obviously just shattering," Guy said.

He said there followed "the education after the fact that the defib starts hearts back up again, but the best opportunity is to get one on someone within three minutes".

"If you do that you've got more than a 70% chance of the person surviving and every minute after that it drops 10%.''

He said the average ambulance response around Australia was around 12 minutes. Guy, who went out and bought 15 defibs, which cost $2000 for a basic model, and began pestering family and friends to have early access to these lifesavers, is now a roving ambassador for Physio Control.

He said this company invented the defib about 70 years ago, but while they are spreading into the public domain, he is passionate that they need to be with us in our everyday lives.

"All my mates bought defibs for their offices and for their homes - and I bought another 10," Guy said.

"I'm happy to spread the word and let people know that your loved ones and your friends who have sudden cardiac arrests don't have to die if there's a defib around.

"It gets me out of bed every day - feeling like what happened to Chucky was a tragedy but at least I'm doing something to help."

 

- PETER GARDINER


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