A quick-acting nurse who saved the life of original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a bushfire relief concert in Sydney last month still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with being labelled a hero and just feels thankful she was on hand to help.
“Everyone’s been really proud and really happy [for me] and I’m just glad that I was there and able to help,” nurse Grace Jones reflects.
“I want people to know that this kind of thing happens every single day. It’s not always a Wiggle but it happens in hospitals and nurses don’t get the recognition that I’ve gotten and we’re all heroes because we all do this.”
Grace, a 23-year-old graduate nurse who works in orthopaedics at Royal North Shore Hospital, has been a lifelong Wiggles fan.
She ventured along to the special over 18s reunion show to raise funds for bushfire relief at the Castle Hill RSL along with her family for a night of fun and chance to relive her childhood.
“When I was younger I just loved to sing along to their songs. They’re so bright and colourful,” she tells the ANMJ, nominating Fruit Salad as her favourite.
As the concert drew to a close an hour into the show and the band waved goodbye before heading off stage, original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page collapsed, suffering a heart attack which led to a cardiac arrest.
Red Wiggle Murray Cook initially emerged to tell the crowd Page wasn’t feeling well and that the band couldn’t carry on with an encore.
Out in the crowd, Grace processed what was unfolding before asking a security guard if medical assistance was required.
“I just thought I’ve got the knowledge, so maybe I can be of some assistance,” Grace recalls.
Ushered backstage, Grace encountered several people performing CPR as Page lay unconscious on the ground, then quickly sprang into action.
“He was pretty unwell. I just jumped in and started doing CPR and went from there,” she says.
“I kind of just walked in and said ‘Look this is what’s happening’ and everyone just did what I told them to do.”
As Grace and others worked on Page, a defibrillator belonging to the venue arrived.
Grace attached the defibrillator and shocked Page three times, calling on her Basic Life Support (BLS) training and skills to carry out the treatment.
The critical period transpired over about 20 minutes and the situation looked grim.
“I just went in and got it done. I didn’t really have time to think about what I was doing. I’ve just seen it and been involved in it many times that I was kind of just on autopilot.”
Fortunately, Page’s heart eventually began beating again.
“It was a lot of relief. I was very relieved. It just felt great,” Grace remembers.
“It felt really good. I was like ‘Oh thank God!’.”
The 48-year-old Page, who has a history of orthostatic intolerance that led to him retiring from The Wiggles over a decade ago, had begun slowly breathing on his own, leading to CPR being ceased just before NSW Ambulance paramedics arrived on the scene to take over the situation.
Paramedics swiftly transported the performer to Westmead Hospital for a medical procedure.
Despite taking control, Grace admits working outside her typical hospital setting presented uncharted territory.
“It’s much more difficult and having no one around me was really hard, doing everything and not having the equipment and personnel around to help,” she says.
“I’m just happy that I was able to help and I was confident enough to go and do that.”
The car ride home in the aftermath of the “surreal” experience left Grace having to come to grips with what had just happened.
She says the support of family, friends and her employer helped her through as she was thrust into the limelight as a hero.
“Everyone [my family] was just very shocked and trying to make sure that I was alright which was really nice,” she says.
“It was just overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that had just happened.”
In a Facebook post the following day, Grace said she was still processing the incident and was thankful for the messages of support and that her nursing training rose to the occasion when it mattered most.
“I’m so thankful that I had my nursing training and that there were bystanders that had CPR training,” she wrote.
“Seeing my childhood idols on Friday night performing at their absolute best was a treat, to raise money for the bushfires was a bonus, to be part of saving a childhood heroes life was the ultimate.”
The Wiggles expressed their gratitude over the concern and outpouring of goodwill towards Page, who was discharged several days after the concert and is still recovering, via their social media channels, while Red Wiggle Murray Cook told ABC’s The Drum Grace took over the situation and was “amazing”.
We’ve visited Greg this morning & he wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes. He’s so grateful for the messages of love & support from around the world. Greg’s main concern was that the show tonight should go on. Let’s do it for Greg whilst raising much needed funds pic.twitter.com/8CBT7P8roA
— The Wiggles (@TheWiggles) January 18, 2020
Page also personally called Grace to say thanks.
“He was very thankful and we just had a bit of a chat. It was quick, he still wasn’t well at the time.”
Grace started her nursing career as an Enrolled Nurse in Royal North Shore’s Acute Assessment Unit before undertaking a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to become an RN.
Her mother is a mental health nurse and both her grandmothers were nurses, so it’s little wonder Grace followed their footsteps into the profession.
“Most of the women in my family are nurses so I grew up thinking that it was something that I wanted to do since as far back as I can remember,” she reveals.
“I love talking to people. I’m lucky that I get to go into work every day and chat and make small talk and find out about people’s lives.
“I actually really like every single part of nursing. I really enjoy my job so I think I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do and to be able to come into work every day and enjoy what I do.”
Grace is set to complete her graduate year in March and is hoping to return to cardiology, a specialty area that she fell in love with during her first rotation last year.
“It’s just so interesting. The human heart is just absolutely fascinating and I just want to learn as much as I possibly can. I’ve had a little taste of it and now I want more.”
Grace was on annual leave at the time of the concert but returned to work in late January and some welcome normality from the recent media spotlight, except for some light-hearted questioning from colleagues.
Having had time to let the incident sink in, she still considers it “surreal” and “insane” and is unlikely to ever forget it.
With it occurring in 2020, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, many argued Grace’s actions exemplify the often unsung exceptional work nurses carry out each day and their wide-ranging contribution.
Grace agrees, saying one of the best parts of the whole experience has been shining a light on the profession.
“It’s been good to have this whole experience and use it to show people that this is something that we do every single day because not many people know that.”