Meet Brucie, the maintenance man behind the Norths Fitness pool

Graham Bruce (Brucie) has been maintaining the Norths Fitness pool for over 16 years, apart from being the legend keeping our pool in tip-top shape he is also a fire fighter, triathlete and heart-attack survivor.

Read more about Brucie and his story below…

How long have you been working with Norths Fitness?

I am coming up to 16 years of being a part of the team that maintain Norths Fitness Pool and I have seen a few changes over that time.

I am a fire fighter with FRNSW, now a non-operational FF

How did you get started with Triathlons?

My background in sports is that I was a pool swimmer who transitioned to SLSA events

I have represented Australia in Open Water swimming 3 times

Former Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Ironman

Original Uncle Toby’s Ironman Competitor

I swam the English Channel in 1994

I have been doing triathlons since 1999 and have qualified for The World Championships in Kona Hawaii 18 times and completed the event 5 times with a best placed of 5th in 2017.

I became interested in Triathlons back in 1982 and competed in a few back then with some strong results for a surf bloke. I always wanted to swim the English Channel and then do Hawaii so after I retired from the Professional Ironman Series, I decided to do the English Channel and then get stuck into Triathlons. I like Triathlons as no one can help you in the run leg, you have to have done the work beforehand and then race your race appropriately to your ability.

What’s been your favourite course to compete on?

My favourite course would have to be Kona in Hawaii. It’s a very demanding course due to the prevailing conditions. It can be hot, humid very windy and added to that there are over 3,000 people on the course. I’ve been there when there’s been hardly any wind and then its been extremely windy where you can be going 70+kph with the wind or you can been grinding it out at 20kph into it. There’s a great deal of uncertainty with that course.

‘I never thought it would happen to me’

ARTICLE SOURCE: Daily Telegraph

Despite being in impeccable shape, Sydney triathlete Graham Bruce ‘pretty much died’ from a heart attack. Thankfully he was revived and has since used his daunting experience to spread awareness on the importance of defibrillators.

At the recent NSW Triathlon Club Championships held in Orange on Saturday 24th March former Nutri Grain, Uncle Toby’s Ironman, English Channel Swimmer and World Champion Triathlete (age group) Graham Bruce (Brucie) suffered a cardiac arrest at the completion of the event and was revived after 15 mins of CPR and the use of a defibrillator that was at the race venue.

I had been training for Ironman Australia which was 6 weeks after this event and which is a 10-hour race where you are in more of an aerobic zone, this event was an hour and a half at a more intense effort. I had finished the swim leg of the race where I did the fastest overall time, I had a lot of difficulty getting my wetsuit off, as I only use it twice a year, so it wasn’t as pliable as a well-used one, I did not shave my legs as this race wasn’t one of the 2 that I target each year, so I had spent an extra 90 seconds in transition 1. I had to stop trying to get the wetsuit off as my arms were physically tired. I left T1 after getting the wetsuit off and jumped on my bike I was riding really well behind (legally) another competitor in my age group who is race fit from the recent summer series mand a better rider than me. At the onset, I had a burning sensation which I thought at the time was from the cold air in my windpipe and from the high intensity effort but on reflection it was the beginning of heart trouble. It seemed like my heart was beating a thousand beats a minute, I stayed with this rider for approximately 10-11km but made the decision to back it off a bit as my main goal is Ironman Australia. I continued to ride hard and dismounted my bike to begin the transition to the run. I have had a lower leg issue, so I have been water running for the previous 3 weeks. The run course was a 3 lap 2.7 km course with two hills. I felt ok running until I started up the hill, my breathing was a bit laboured, but I had put this down to not doing any hill work. After 1.5 laps, I decided to back the run effort of as another teammate was going to pick up maximum points for my Club (Warringah Triathlon Club) and all I had to do was finish.

I crossed the line and felt sore on the left side of my chest, the race announcer had interviewed me before and asked “how my calf was” I gave him the thumbs down and  then grabbed some ice for my calf and went to my club tent and spoke with my club mates about their race experiences and continued to ice my leg. I had said to my wife, Caz, that the race hurt me, and I hadn’t felt like that before. I would have liked to have stayed around to cheer on all my fellow club mates but after 15 minutes I mentioned to Caz that I needed to go back to our hotel and get ready for the club function that night as my chest was still sore.

I stood up and we placed my ice pack in my Eyeline sports bag, and I said to my wife “I’ll go and get my bike from transition” then I leant over and had my hands near my ankles and the last thing I saw was my ankles.

Next it was black  or approximately a second and I could hear voices and also movement on my extremities. I then opened my eyes and noticed people above and around me. There was a tarp being held up by my friends providing shielding. I looked to my right and there was my friend Dr Gary Tall, an air ambulance doctor that helps co-ordinate the transportation of patients around the state. I asked what’s going on and he said “Brucie you have a heart attack and have a blocked artery, take this aspirin and that I was going to hospital”. I was communicative to my mates and also noticed that a storm was heading towards the race venue. Gary also had the air ambulance helicopter on standby in case “it was something serious”

I was shocked twice at the race site,

Timeline

2.54 pm I finished the race after 1 hour 25 since the heart attack

3.09 pm I collapsed, and CPR started within 1 min

3.10 pm. 000 call made

3.11 pm – 3.27pm delivered 2 x Defibrillator shocks and adrenaline delivered when the Ambos arrived

3.28pm Transport in the ambulance

4.19pm Stent inserted into me

We arrived at Orange Base Hospital which has a dedicated Cath Lab and a 24/7 on call cardiac team which has one of two Cath Labs that service the rest of NSW on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, I was 1.5km away from it. I was conscious throughout the whole procedure, it was a weird moment when a Doctor asked me to sign a form, I asked what it was for and he replied, “in case you have a stroke or need a bypass or die” I put my hand in the air and a pen was placed in it and I did a squiggle somewhere on the form, it probably looks like a 3-year-old trying to write.

At one stage during the procedure the nurse near my left leg proceeded to move around the monitor on my left towards my head and said, “he’s still conscious” as she said conscious I was delivered a shock. My heart was beginning to change rhythm, which can happen during this procedure. My back arched and was frozen in mid-air for a second then landed back on the table (just like in the moviesd), The Doctor then showed me the monitor with the before and after footage of my artery and the blood flow to the left side of the heart muscle.

I was extremely fortunate that my wife and team mates (Chris and Matt) began CPR with in 30 seconds of me collapsing, I had Dr Gary Tall from air ambulance and Dr Danielle Morris (Bathurst Tri Club) an Emergency Doctor at Bathurst Hospital, an Emergency Nurse and a junior Doctor from Cronulla Tri club all assisted to keep my blood moving around my body until I was revived. The time that I was not “alive” was 15 + minutes, I have read reports from the Technical officials and others that I was lying there with eyes wide open and pale and that everyone thought the worse for me.

Even though “Brucie” is quite fit and healthy, he placed 5th in the 50-54 age group at the World Ironman Championships 5 months before (2017) and won the 70.3 World Champs in 2016 (50-54 age group) there are factors that he has no control over that contributed to his cardiac arrest and that is being,

  1. Male
  2. Over 50 years of age
  3. Family history of heart conditions

My dad had a number of bypasses when he was 57 years old. I have had heart stress tests previously and will increase the frequency of these. As a nurse in Orange said to me “it’s not what you have on the outside but what your body is like on the inside”, she is referring to the state of your arteries that feed blood to the heart muscle so it can perform its job of moving blood around the body. I am fortunate that there was a defibrillator at the event site and I didn’t have the attack at the furthest distance from the Defibrillator on bike leg some 15kms away on country roads. Due to the quick action by all parties, the initial ultrasound of my heart muscle showed minimal, if any, damage to my heart.