The Terrace Marquee, Westminster – 26th November.
Guest of Honour: Lee Mears, former England rugby union international.
CRY’s 2014 Parliamentary Reception on Wednesday November 26 was an event packed not only with CRY Representatives, supporters, bereaved families, members of the myheart group and doctors, but also several CRY Patrons and 21 MPs.
This year, and for the first time, we were very proud to be launching a hard-hitting 1 minute film created specifically for fast, wide-ranging circulation. It was donated to CRY by multinational advertising agency Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) which has produced campaigns for many of the world’s most illustrious brands. It was the brain child of David Lynch, an assistant producer at the agency, who wanted to raise awareness of our work in memory of a friend who had died suddenly whilst playing rugby. The video ran on a screen (with headphones) during the evening so that it was easily accessible to all our guests. It clearly illustrated how suddenly young sudden cardiac death occurs, even to the fittest athlete, and within 8 weeks there had been in excess of 250,000 viewings which generated a great surge of interest in our work. David, a key speaker on the evening, gave great credit to the significant contributions made by his expert colleagues for all the time they had voluntarily donated – resulting in a very memorable film which CRY will use for many years to come. Such was the attention to detail that it took over 4 months to produce. CRY could not have contemplated funding such a sophisticated project and are enormously grateful to David and BBH for choosing CRY as the forum for this campaign.
MC for the evening was again CRY Chairman Hugh Mulcahey, who introduced the first speaker Kevan Jones MP, founder member and Chair of the CRY All Party Parliamentary group when it was launched by our Honorary President Sir Ian Botham OBE in 2002. Kevan reminded us that 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of the Cardiac Risk in the Young (Screening) Private Members’ Bill that had been so successfully supported by MPs and CRY families that it had resulted in a new chapter of the National Service Framework on arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. This gave CRY political recognition and the platform we needed to promulgate what could and should be done to reduce the number of tragedies.
Lee Mears, CRY’s new Patron, who played hooker for Bath and England rugby teams, took time out from a commitment in Prague flying in just for the event, and spoke passionately about CRY’s screening programme. Lee was diagnosed by CRY’s Consultant Cardiologist Professor Sanjay Sharma just before he was due to leave on his next overseas rugby tour. Although devastated to learn he must immediately stop playing rugby he also recognised how lucky he had been as an elite athlete to be tested regularly and have his condition identified. In referring to the film, and the many bereaved families attending the reception, he emphasised the importance of testing young people at the grassroots level in sport where most of the deaths occur and that many lives would be saved if the programme could be extended.
Sue Dewhirst spoke movingly about how the first time that she saw the film she felt she was watching her son Matthew because of the number of his faints she had witnessed over the years during rugby games. Matthew died playing rugby at 17 after repeatedly collapsing since he was 8, but his “faints” were emphatically and consistently dismissed by doctors as dehydration or stress.
Professor Sanjay Sharma, now an internationally famous speaker, gave his usual brilliant talk – particularly focusing this year on the proven efficacy of CRY screenings and how screening should be being used proactively to safeguard the 80% of young people with a hidden heart condition who die without exhibiting any warning signs or symptoms. Sanjay said he was glad that so many schools had taken advantage of CRY’s screening programme over the year but that he wanted to see all schools in the UK get on board.
CRY Patron Baroness Ilora Finlay (one of the best known members of the House of Lords) was our final speaker and eloquently highlighted that the full cost of a young life was not, and must be, properly addressed. It was only when people fully understood this cost did she think that the matter would be given the priority it deserved.
At our 2013 Parliamentary Reception, Mike Gapes MP had reduced many guests to tears when he spoke of the impact on him of the death of his daughter Rebecca the previous year, and how much support he received from his fellow MPs and CRY. Everyone who heard him will remember his courage in speaking and he was chosen as the MP to receive this year’s painting by CRY supporter John Bennett. John told us that he had felt a particular affinity to Mike because he had started painting to help him come to terms with the death of his own 14-year-old daughter Laura, and he was even more concerned than usual to produce a painting that Mike would like.
As well as our Patron speakers Ilora and Lee, the event was also supported by CRY Patrons Jeremy Bates, Alison Waters, Simon Halliday, Andy Scott, Pat Jennings OBE KSG and Phil Packer MBE; who we were delighted to welcome to the event, and whose company was very much enjoyed by our many guests.
For the 3rd successive year we launched a bereavement booklet to follow our Sibling (2012) and Father’s (2013) Grief booklets. This was “A Partner’s Grief”, launched on 14 February 2014. Five co-authors were able to attend from every part of the UK, and were: Jane Davies (London); Shelagh Green (Scotland); Gary Horn (Middlesex); Andrew Quew (Isle of Wight); and Carly Sykes-Blowers (Kent). We were very pleased that we were finally able to meet and thank them for their contributions to the booklet which has made a significant difference to the number of partners that now contact our bereavement service.
(Photos by James McCauley)