CRY was chosen to be the charity Lifeline promoted in February, and the broadcast was lent some star power when our Patron Pixie Lott agreed to present the appeal. The 25-year-old singer has been superb in her efforts to help raise awareness over the past six years and her commitment to be the anchor for our film in a hectic period – just before her West End debut starring in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – was outstanding.
Raising awareness of young sudden cardiac death is a cause close to Pixie’s heart as her childhood dance teacher Matt Beadle died following a cardiac arrest, aged 32. “He had a successful career in West End musicals, and was someone I really looked up to.” The film also features the story of Adam Donnelly, a close friend of Pixie’s older sister, who died suddenly when he was 17. Adam’s mother, Julie, and sister, Sian, go on to speak emotionally about the shock and pain of Adam’s death, as well as its medical consequences for them both.
Julie and Sian Donnelly were left without a reason for why Adam died, and did exceptionally well in the film to communicate the importance of that diagnosis, which eludes so many affected families. Through contacting CRY, they both went on to be diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, and Sian underwent a procedure to fit an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to restart her heart in the event of an arrhythmia. It has since saved her life three times. “If we hadn’t been screened as a family, I could have lost two children,” Julie says. “That doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Pixie’s presentation and compelling interviews with the subjects of the film, including CRY Consultant Cardiologist Professor Sanjay Sharma, really hammered home the frequency as well as the impact of young sudden deaths like Matt’s and Adam’s. We were very pleased with the BBC creative team’s convincing structure, which successfully linked the tragedies with the importance of CRY’s work in supporting families, research and screening. After 24-year-old James Bailey describes being diagnosed with a life-threatening syndrome through a CRY screening at his school, and now being completely cured and back on the football pitch again, CRY’s proactive initiatives are shown to have come full circle to prevent future tragedies.
In addition to the CRY appeal’s terrestrial broadcasts on BBC One and Two, the social media impact of the film was huge. We reached over 700,000 people through the Thunderclap launch alone, and we received great feedback about the film. We were particularly glad to learn that the awareness raised was not only responsible for young viewers deciding to get screened, but also prompted contact after young sudden cardiac death – and those affected can now receive our support.