He was struggling to breathe
A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Thailand with Jeff Fenech to continue my preparations for my December fight with Tim Tsyzu.
It definitely didn’t go to plan. I’m back home in Sydney and Jeff is still steering the ship, but doing it from his hospital bed in Thailand after open heart surgery.
Pretty much as soon as we landed, Jeff just wasn’t himself. He spent a lot of time in his hotel room in bed trying to rest and get better. By day three, he was getting worse and worse and the only time he’d leave the hotel was to come and watch me spar. He’d give some advice, then go back to his hotel room.
On day three or four we had a big dinner organised. The boys went to check up on Jeff and he was struggling to breathe. It was quite scary. We were telling him he should be thinking about going to hospital.
He was being a bit stubborn and tough and old school – ‘I’ll be right’ kind of thing. But listening to him breathe, he was really struggling.
So we called an ambulance which came and took him straight into the intensive care unit.
They diagnosed him with pneumonia and 80 per cent of his lungs were full of fluid, which is why he was struggling to breathe. They put an oxygen mask on him and did all the tests and found that an infection created by the pneumonia damaged some critical valves that pump the blood around his heart.
They decided they needed a full open heart surgery. It was scary. I was in there when the specialist came in the day before he needed the surgery.
Emergency In Day #3 of Team Fenechs Thailand Training Camp …… Jeff Fenech we love you mate… Get well….. You have a great team there with you … https://epicentre.tv/boxing
Posted by Fight Call Out on Saturday, 5 October 2019
The surgeon was obviously very experienced and qualified and has done a great job but listening to him explain what had to be done, with English as his second language, my head was spinning. I wasn’t understanding anything of what he was saying that had to be done, so I’m not sure what that was like for Jeff. It was unbelievable the whole process and scenario of it.
He said he’d never experienced the pain he’s been experiencing with this, every time he talks, every time he coughs, every time he swallows. He’s got a big cut down the centre of his chest. As you can imagine, having your chest ripped open and stitched back together is not pretty.
Even though he was in incredible pain, he always had the spirit and tried to laugh where he could and the boys were all trying to keep his spirits up.
Still in charge from hospital
Part of being a professional athlete is dealing with adversity, rolling with the punches.
At the end of the day, Jeff’s health comes first but I know what this fight means to me also. So once Jeff was in the hospital, my training continued as usual.
Basil Nassis, who is a Team Fenech trainer, stepped in for me. The situation brought all the guys who train with Jeff closer together as well and they all rallied behind me and we were spending our time together going between the gym and the hospital.
Basil is working with me back in Sydney while Jeff is still in Thailand recovering. I’m speaking to Jeff on the phone and sending training videos over to him to watch.
Jeff’s still in charge from the hospital bed. I’m doing everything he’s asking.
I had a session in the gym this week and I had Jeff’s friend Mark Bouris there watching me and giving me tips and water between rounds. It’s a great thing having someone like that, watching me train, having a chat.
I get why Jeff does his camps over in Thailand. It was hard work. The training intensity, the heat and humidity, was sapping. One round over there was like three over here. It was sticky every morning and thunderstorms every afternoon.
I came back last week, had a few days off with a stomach bug, then recharged the batteries. I’ve felt amazing in the gym since that.
When I was struggling to get through the rounds over there, I was thinking I’m not really fit and then you come back home and you’re breezing through the rounds.