Today in Belfast, Cardiac Risk in the Young launched its Northern Ireland postcard campaign. The symbolic postcard highlights the deaths of 12 young people from Northern Ireland of undiagnosed fatal heart conditions most of which are genetic. This is the latest leg in CRY’s campaign promoting the value of screening across Northern Ireland and the UK.
Each week across Northern Ireland and the UK twelve people 35 and under years of age die from undiagnosed heart conditions. The figure represents a 50% increase on previous estimates. That is the stark message from Cardiac Risk in the Young.
The CRY postcard campaign encourages people to write to their local MLA to raise awareness of the importance of cardiac screening.
CRY believes that such tragic loss of life at an early age could be avoided if more young people underwent screening as it is believed that 80% of young people that die suddenly do not have prior symptoms and the first symptom is sudden death.
The only way to change the current statistics is by being screened.
Ian McCall’s son John died suddenly in 2004 whilst playing rugby for the Ireland Under-19 team. Ian said:
“We would encourage as many people as possible to get screened. This doesn’t just affect people involved in sport, anyone can have an undiagnosed heart condition and be totally unaware of it.
On 17th March 2004 John captained Royal School Armagh to victory in the final of the Ulster Schools Cup. On 27 March he died on the rugby field in Durban. He had not shown any symptoms that he was unwell.”
“The young people that die are all in the prime of their lives with much still to offer society. It is very difficult for any family to try deal with a sudden death. One way to avoid this tragic situation is to get screened or have your children screened.”
Alison Cox, Chief Executive of CRY (right) says: “The death of a young person has a catastrophic effect on their family and all who loved them, particularly if there is the possibility that the death was avoidable and caused by a condition that could have been detected.
“We know that screening saves lives. CRY is committed to raising awareness of the value of cardiac screening, particularly for young people involved in sport at grassroots level.
“Sport does not cause the problem but it can exacerbate an existing undiagnosed condition and young people are the high risk group.
These conditions are all treatable but in most cases the only way to find out who is at risk and needing treatment is by screening.
“The support of local politicians is vital in the battle to save young lives. They have an invaluable role to play in raising the profile of screening in Stormont and with their support it could become accessible to every family in Northern Ireland.
“Sudden death syndrome strikes down hundreds of young people across the UK each year. These deaths are indiscriminate. Many of those who die are involved in sporting activities and all are in the prime of their lives. Their future is ahead of them with so much to offer their families and society when they are so cruelly taken.”
The CRY screening programme is available for the 14 – 35 age group at the CRY Screening Clinc; the University of Ulster at Jordanstown.