A simple and quick ECG test could save the lives of the 12 apparently fit and healthy young people that die each week in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions. That’s the message from the leading heart charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and a local family who have joined the campaign to increase access to cardiac screening for young people.
As part of this ongoing mission to raise awareness and to help prevent young sudden cardiac death [YSCD] CRY will be holding a 5th ECG screening clinic at the Kiveton Park Surgery next week (Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 September) where people, aged between 14 and 35, can be tested.
Donations made in memory of local GP John Reid’s daughter, Alex, have again funded appointments for a further 200 free screenings. Alex (a former student at Sheffield High School) died suddenly the night before sitting her final GCSE exam from a previously undiagnosed heart condition in 2012. She was aged just 16.
The Reid family is also proud to announce that next weekend will see the 1,000th young person from the local area being screened, thanks to the Alex Reid Memorial Fund
Heather Reid (a local physiotherapist and former lecturer at the University of Nottingham), says; “So far, we have raised a staggering £100,000, including a fabulous “Strictly Dancing for CRY” event earlier this year, which generated almost £24,000! But none of this would have been possible without the unfaltering generosity of our friends, family and the local community in terms of both time and money.”
The Alex Reid Memorial Fund is supporting a pioneering research programme specifically selected by the Reid family, looking at how young people who have been identified and diagnosed with a heart condition can continue exercising safely – something many young people in this scenario become scared of and avoid.
Heather adds; “Just over 6 years ago, my extremely fit and seemingly healthy daughter Alex died in her sleep. The heartache we feel from losing such a vibrant, happy young person, who had so much to offer does not diminish.
“Yet our screening weekends always seem to be joyous occasions, our team are wonderful people and we feel we are helping in some small way.”
“Many people also leave substantial donations after having been screened and most come and buy at least one of Alex’s famous “Rocky Roads” and have a cup of tea or coffee. I will be the one in the pinny covered with hearts – it belonged to Alex.”
An ECG (electrocardiogram) test is a simple way to identify the vast majority of abnormalities that can cause sudden deaths in young people. The test is quick, non-invasive and painless and if necessary, a further echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) can be taken on the same day to provide further clarity or reassurance.
Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox, says: “The death of a young person is utterly devastating for any family. It is therefore essential that anyone with a potentially fatal heart condition knows about it.
“Without this knowledge and, if necessary, appropriate treatment, they could be putting their lives at risk as in 80% of cases there are no signs or symptoms. Sport itself does not actually cause sudden cardiac death but it can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition. However, research carried out by CRY has also shown that a large number of these deaths will also occur when a young person is at rest or even sleeping.”
CRY’s screening programme is overseen by Professor Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London and the Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon. Professor Sharma makes no charge for supervising the CRY screening programme and due to this support, CRY can significantly subsidise the programme – privately, these tests could cost hundreds of pounds.
Dr Cox adds: “We have now been testing young people’s hearts for well over two decades and are so proud that our screening programme now reaches out to over 27,000 young people annually – a figure that is set to grow. But we still believe screening needs to be extended to all young people. Although screening will not identify everyone at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death has been reduced by 90%.
“This weekend marks a real milestone for everyone involved with the Alex Reid Memorial Fund, with the 1,000th local person due to be screened. But we are also immensely grateful for the funds donated to CRY’s research programme by the Reid family. With screening and research working in tandem, we can make huge progress in the prevention of young sudden cardiac death.”