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Local man holding Sylvan Lake fundraiser for heart health

A local man who was declared clinically dead as a result of cardiac arrest is hoping to raise money for the very organization
Austin McGrath

A local man who was declared clinically dead as a result of cardiac arrest is hoping to raise money for the very organization he credits to saving his life.

Austin McGrath, 22, is holding a fundraiser called ‘Swim for Life’ for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

On Aug. 18th, McGrath will be swimming about 5 kms across Sylvan Lake. He is hoping to raise at least $5,000 for the Foundation. There will also be a barbeque at the event.

Also, as part of the fundraiser, there will also be a silent auction as well as a 90s alternative band concert at Bo’s Bar and Grill on Aug. 11th starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 each.

“The reason I am doing this event is to change someone’s life.”

On May 13th, 2011, McGrath suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming lanes at the Recreation Centre pool.

As a result of McGrath’s trauma he was in the hospital for 47 days. Of those, he spent 17 days in an induced coma and was expected to have over a year of recovery. He was admitted into extreme rehabilitation and permanent brain damage was almost a guarantee, he said. He also went through heart surgery and had a defibrillator put in.

The road to recovery was a tough one but McGrath persevered through.

“When I woke up it felt like when you have had a really good sleep. They asked me my name and if I knew what day it was. I recognized my parents. I knew I was in the hospital. I couldn’t really talk because when they took the breathing tube out the second time they scratched my vocal chords.

“I had to go through speech therapy and through physical therapy. But once I was up it was leaps and bounds.”

To date, McGrath said he still suffers from issues with his memory.

“I’ll remember faces really well but I have a hard time remembering names. There are also little things like I will leave the lights on without realizing it or I’ll take the milk out of the fridge and forget to put it back in. I just have to be really, really conscious of everything now.”

McGrath is physically fit today as well. “When I first got out it was very up and down. I had been shocked by my defibrillator once when I was biking and then I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve had arrhythmias when my heart is getting a little too fast. But I have medication that I take twice a day so it’s a lifestyle change but it’s not something that you can’t get past.”

McGrath said he was inspired to raise money for the Foundation because he believes they were responsible for helping to save his life.

“Without the funds and research that the Heart and Stroke Foundation invested, my recovery wouldn’t have been possible.”

“Because of the hard work and care other people have committed to this cause, my life was saved and that is exactly what I want to do for someone else,” said McGrath. “My goal is that with the money raised, hundreds of lives will be touched, whether it be by saving a mother from a heart attack, helping a stroke victim with rehabilitation, or fundraising defibrillators for more battery capacity.”

McGrath acknowledges there is some risk to completing the swim but said he has taken all the necessary precautions.

“Even though this swim is attainable, there are risks that affect myself in ways that could be fatal and therefore medical attention must be present,” he said. “I will be starting at the pier of Sylvan Lake, swimming horizontally across the lake, and back. The personal risks involved mean I will have a boat following in front, as well as a paramedic on location.”

For more information check out ‘Swim for Life’ on Facebook or call Austin McGrath at 403-598-4630.

—Erin Fawcett, Black Press

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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