Graphic: Busby Marou
Jeremy Marou’s father, a fit, athletic man in his 50s, was playing a game of touch football with his son, family and friends in Rockhampton. Unfortunately, it would be his last after a heart attack took his life that night.
Fifteen years later, Jeremy himself is lying in a hospital bed awaiting RFDS transfer to Brisbane after a sickening coincidence, which saw him almost fall to the same fate as his father on the same touch football field in Rockhampton.
"I was playing touch footy with my family and friends as I do quite often. I'm not the fittest bloke in the world but I'm not too bad," Jeremy said.
Jeremy is one half of Australian award-winning roots music duo, Busby Marou. Speaking to the RFDS following his latest shows in Tasmania, as part of the band's latest album tour, Jeremy said it's lucky he is able to tour at all.
Graphic: Busby Marou Royal Flying Doctor Service
"Since the [Rockhampton] floods we were playing two games to catch up. We finished the first game and I just had this weird feeling across my chest. I knew something wasn't quite right," he said.
Knowing he had to fly out of Rockhampton the following morning, Jeremy said he thought it would be wise to skip the second game and head home for some rest. However on the drive home, a spinning head and tight chest forced him to pull over and let his wife take the wheel.
Before she even had a chance to drive, Jeremy told her it might be best to go straight to the hospital.
By the time the couple arrived at Rockhampton Hospital, Jeremy said he was actually feeling fine. He thought he might have just been experiencing exhaustion. Doctors told him otherwise.
Jeremy had suffered a heart attack as a result of his right artery being 99 per cent blocked, and despite telling the doctors he was now feeling well enough to head home, he was instead told he should have someone bring a bag to the airport as he would be flying to Brisbane.
“I really didn’t want to put them out, so I told them it's all good, I'm a platinum flyer so I can sort the flight out myself,” Jeremy laughs. “They pretty quickly told me I would be flying with the Flying Doctor.”
Jeremy said it was the sudden realisation of the seriousness of his situation that could have contributed to the second heart attack, which hit him that night.
"It was the anxiety of knowing that I wasn't going home, I was going straight to an ambulance and to the tarmac. That made me really anxious and it was actually then that I had secondary heart pains," he said.
"I reckon it was purely because of my anxiety of being scared and worried and not really knowing what was going on because now I was being flown to Brisbane with the RFDS.
"I thought, 'this is only for people who are dying!' I was really scared."
Jeremy's anxiety was apparent to RFDS Flight Nurse Stacey Clayworth as she prepared Jeremy for his flight to the capital.
"Feeling anxious about not only the flight, but also what is to come when the patient is transferred onto a tertiary hospital is very common," Stacey said.
"Our patients are often in a state of disbelief that they have had a major health scare and now find themselves in the back of an RFDS aircraft being flown to Brisbane, often in a hurry, for specialist treatment.
"It's our job to provide the patient with reassurance while closely monitoring them during the flight."
A self-declared fan of Busby Marou, Stacey said herself and Pilot Stephen Clarke jokingly suggested to Jeremy that this experience may one day materialise in one of his songs.
"We really wish him well in his recovery and hope to see him playing back on stage in Rocky soon," she said.
Jeremy praised Stacey and the flight crew for their calm heads in what was one of the most harrowing moments in his life.
"Stacey was so good," Jeremy said. "I know for a fact I wasn't the easiest patient. I just wanted to sit down, but I know they definitely had my best interests at heart and just wanted to ensure my wellbeing, and they got me through what was, at the time, a very scary time for me."
Now well and truly on the mend after a short stay in Brisbane, Jeremy says he has never felt as good as he does now. "I'm really enjoying the recovery," Jeremy said.
"We're cutting out all of the bad things you do on tour like alcohol and cigarettes, and it's giving me a whole new perspective on some of the amazing places we get to travel to.
"Instead of waking up hungover and running to catch the next flight, we're taking the time to get out and see some of the towns and cities we visit. And my dog thinks it's great because now he's getting walked every day.
"It's unfortunate that it took a heart attack — a massive close call — for me to make those changes. Genetics were obviously against me, knowing that I almost suffered the same fate as my father, but I know there are lifestyle choices I can make to keep me going."
Jeremy also said that Stacey's wish of seeing Jeremy and Busby Marou back performing in their hometown of Rockhampton would also be on the cards.
"Once we finish this tour towards the end of the year we plan on holding a concert in Rocky to raise funds and give back to the Flying Doctor," he said.
"It's the least I can do after what they did for me."