An 'Ace' Day Out For Local Boy, James Doherty

Teenager James Doherty, who had Wimbledon dreams shattered by devastating heart condition, takes starring role at world’s most famous tennis tournament.

jdw32James Doherty (14) from Codicote fulfilled his life long ambition by appearing on Centre Court on Sunday 5 July, as he took on the prestigious role as official ‘coin tosser’ for the Men’s Singles Final at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships – representing CRY.

But for James, who just 10 months ago was a Junior County Champion (and tipped as one of the UK’s future ‘stars’ of the game), the day was also be a poignant reminder of the fact he is now unable to play competitive sport, following the diagnosis of a heart condition, known as Long QT Syndrome.

In September last year, whilst training at Hazelwood Tennis Academy in Enfield, Middlesex, James suddenly collapsed when a fault in his heart’s electrical rhythm caused it to stop beating. Experts at the London Ambulance Service and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (where James was later treated) believe James had a cardiac arrest for 11 minutes.


It was only the quick actions of fellow tennis parent Alan Percy (unknown to the Doherty Family) – later joined by fitness trainer Karen Browne, who carried out CPR – that saved James’ life.

James Doherty says; “I’ve always dreamt of being a professional tennis player and playing at Wimbledon would have been the ultimate. That’s obviously not going to happen now but an experience like this is the next best thing and a dream come true.”

James has now been fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – a small device that monitors heartbeats and detects irregular beats. If necessary, it literally delivers a life-saving electric shock to re-start the heart.

jdw1His mum, Sarah (49), an Early Years Adviser at Herts County Council and father Barry (51), Head of Learning Support at Barnet College, add: “What happened to James was every parent’s worst nightmare and for 24 hours after he collapsed, we didn’t even know if he would pull through. However, we are immensely proud of his strength and bravery on his road to recovery and thrilled for him to have this exciting opportunity.”

Sarah has now become involved with the charity CRY and has helped to promote its recent screening event that took place in Welwyn Garden City (20/21 June) as part of the national testmyheart tour, supported by leading health company, Philips.

Over 200 young people were tested over that weekend, thanks to funds raised by local mum Karen Blease, who lost her son Mathew to sudden cardiac death in February 2008, aged just 13.

Latest figures released by CRY1 show that 12 young (i.e. aged 35 and under) ‘apparently healthy’ people die every week in the UK from sudden cardiac death – and many experts believe that figure could just be ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Whilst sport itself does not cause the problem – it can exacerbate an existing undiagnosed condition.

Founder and Chief Executive of CRY, Alison Cox MBE, adds; “We are very proud that CRY has again2 been given this high profile opportunity by The Championships and I had absolutely no hesitation in recommending James Doherty for this honour in view of his own aspirations in the game. He has coped brilliantly with the sudden, enforced readjustment of his life and I know that being a part of this very special occasion is a memory that he will always treasure.

“It is a wonderful way to pay tribute to the work of CRY and our many supporters who campaign tirelessly for greater awareness of these tragic heart conditions that cruelly claim the lives of young people – many of whom were talented sportspeople.

“James’ story is a real miracle and, thanks to his amazing recovery, he is living proof that once a condition such as Long QT has been detected and treated, young people can continue to lead normal, healthy lives.”
Before leaving for home, James and his mum Sarah were able to meet and thank Peter Moys, who recommended CRY for this prestigious honour because he knew the tragic story of Stephanie Hunter, whose husband (aged 32) and subsequently son (aged 15) had both died suddenly of the same genetic heart condition.

For more information or to arrange an interview / photo with James Doherty or mum, Sarah, please contact Jo Hudson or Heather Churchouse on 020 8786 3860 / 0770 948 7959 or email

For further information about sudden cardiac death and the work carried out by CRY visit: or call 01737 363 222

CRY has a number of Patrons from the world of sport including Sir Ian Botham, James Cracknell OBE, Rob Andrew MBE, Sir Steve Redgrave CBE, Wimbledon commentator John Inverdale – and comedian, actor and extreme sportsman, David Walliams!


Notes to editors
1. ONS 2006
2. Laura John, then 14, represented CRY as the official ‘coin tosser’ in July 2004. She and her sister Danielle, both from Southampton, have also been successfully treated for Long QT syndrome.

CRY was founded in May 1995 to raise awareness of Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS). As well as campaigning and lobbying and the provision of its subsidised cardiac screening programme for young people (35 and under), the charity also provides counselling and support to bereaved families as well as young individuals who may be diagnosed with a life threatening condition

CRY works closely with a number of MPs to try and improve awareness of sudden cardiac death in young people. This has resulted in the creation of the CRY All Party Parliamentary Group (currently 116 members), and the proposal of the Cardiac Risk in the Young (Screening) Bill which was the catalyst for new NSF guidelines for Chapter 8 on Arrhythmia and Sudden Cardiac Death.

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is an umbrella term for a number of different heart conditions that affect fit and healthy people which, if not treated can result in a dramatic and or / spontaneous death. In about one in 20 cases of sudden cardiac death, no recognised cause can be found – even after post-mortem. This is then called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS). Many experts are now claiming that the actual number of deaths recorded could be far greater with many causes being wrongly recorded at post mortem as asthma, epilepsy or even drowning.