Suddenly being thrust into the middle of a new situation is always a daunting experience – but when the level of uncertainty peaks above what you’ve ever experienced, that’s when fear comes into play.
This is what 21-year-old University of Wollongong student, and Wagga Wagga boy Brent O’Rourke went through as a 17 year old, after he was diagnosed with a serious heart issue. Following a series of dizzy spells and fainting, to which he attributed to “not drinking enough water”, his mother decided to take him to hospital and discover what the problem was.
“Dad had it before but we just totally forgot about the link, so we never thought it was going to be a heart problem.”
He was subsequently diagnosed with second-degree heart block.
Being in and out of hospital wasn’t the main problem for him, and like so many others, he says that hospital never really was a fun place to be in.
“As a 17-year old, I wasn’t classified as a child anymore. So I got moved into the heart ward, which is basically a wing where lots of old men and women were dying. The patient that was in my room with me, he died while I was there.”
For approximately 4-5 months of 11th and 12th grade, Brent was in and out of hospital, and on top of that, he had to get a heart monitor implanted into his body, which is under his skin, but protrudes as a vertical, rectangular shape.
“It was pretty hard to deal with at the start, because I just…I just felt different from everyone else, having something stick out of my chest was weird. But the scar, the scar I feel was a lot worse than the monitor.”
For Brent, finding a way to ignore all these problems was a number one priority, and a strict workout regimen is of the main activities that helped him get over the distractions; it didn’t go waste either, as his strong work ethic improved his heart condition substantially, saying that “ever since I got the implant and started exercising properly, I haven’t fainted once.”
Coupled with this strict workout routine, AFL was just as important, if not more;
“Footy was an escape. Whenever I was out on the field playing the game, I felt like I did before all these problems happened…”
“I felt like a kid again.”
Now studying philosophy and psychology at UOW, he’s looking forward to new challenges he is going to face. He starts to glow when he talks about where he is today, and being an avid AFL follower, the importance of sports and exercise is something he knows better than anyone, and he’s eager to share the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to everyone.
“If someone like me can benefit from exercise, anyone can.”
So what’s the future for Brent O’Rourke? He is currently playing AFL for the Uni Bulldogs, and the monitor he currently has is out at the end of this year, but he says that at 50 years old, he has to get a pacemaker implanted, but that doesn’t seem to faze him:
“That’s 50 year old Brent, he won’t be playing footy anymore. 21-year old Brent wants to enjoy his life to the fullest.”